In terms of employment, 2021 is uncharted waters. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in August 2021 alone and across a wide array of industries. Almost half of those leaving their work came from three industries:

  1. Food service and hospitality (892,000)
  2. Retail (721,000)
  3. Healthcare (534,000).

Another fact: August was not an anomaly; it marked the sixth month in a row of unprecedented resignations.

Employees are leaving the workforce for various reasons. Employees that work face to face with customers cite they quit because they are fed up with the increasingly unruly behavior of the customers they serve.

Some workers – especially healthcare and first responders – are just plain burnt out from dealing with the effects of the pandemic – something called pandemic fatigue.

For some parents with multiple children in childcare, it is no longer economically feasible for both parents to work and then pay out one parent’s pay to childcare each month; or they simply can’t find childcare. Statistically, people employed in childcare is down 108,700 from the start of the pandemic in February 2020. So one of them out of necessity becomes a stay-at-home parent.

The Work/Life Dilemma

According to an organizational psychologist, another reason could be from the catastrophic effects of the pandemic. When humans are exposed to death and illness at levels produced by the pandemic, it forces them to step back and ask themselves what they really want out of work and ultimately life itself. As a result, what we are seeing could be an adjustment to their life/ work relationship that ends up taking their career in a new direction.

Another reason for workplace departure is that workers are tired of not being heard … especially the younger ones. Baby Boomers and Generation X workers were content to “go with the flow”. But Millennials and Gen Zs are different. They want to be heard and if not, they are confident to leave their current job and find a better one out of the 10.4 million unfilled positions.

One example of wanting to be heard is employees remotely working from home. If they were able to do their job from home during the pandemic, why are some employers now forcing them to return to the workplace?

Workplace Changes Benefit Employees

What this mass exodus is doing is forcing employers to step up their game in order to retain their workforce. Specifically employers are:

  • paying higher wages
  • offering more benefits to include vacation time, health insurance and 401k matching in many cases
  • increasing job flexibility
  • soliciting feedback from employees (and then instituting positive change as a result of that feedback)

The Great Resignation Revolution is evidence employment tables have turned for the first time in a long time, and workers now have the upper hand. With high labor demand and an unusually large pool of job openings, many workers think the time is right to make a change … some to a completely different higher-paying career field that offers more benefits and stability. Time will tell though how long it will take for the pendulum to swing in another direction.

The Veteran Advantage

For veterans switching careers, many have a leg up when competing for jobs that require a security clearance. Because of the time it takes to get someone a security clearance that has not had one before, veterans with a security clearance are extremely valuable and wanted by employers. Many of these jobs are with the federal government or private government contractors that pay well and provide a wide array of benefits.

Labor and employment experts predict many of the current effects on labor are here to stay. The pandemic has permanently changed the employment landscape and will force businesses to be more responsive to their employee needs now and into the future. They have to – they can’t do business without them!


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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.