Big quit: Workers cite low pay and lack of opportunities to quit in new survey


According to the Pew Research Center, about one-fifth of American adults quit their jobs last year in search of higher wages, more benefits and a better work-life balance. (iStock)

Many American workers are seeking better-paying jobs to take advantage of domestic wage gains and offset the financial impact of record inflation. The national quit rate hit an all-time high in November 2021, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), signaling a shift in the job market known as the Great Quit.

About a fifth (19%) of American workers left their jobs in 2021, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. The main reason American workers quit their jobs last year was because their pay was too low – nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents cited low pay as a reason for quitting. Additionally, 37% said it was a major reason and 26% said it was a contributing factor.

Top reasons American workers quit their jobs in 2021

Former employees also felt they had no opportunity for advancement (63%) and felt looked down on at work (57%). About half (48%) of workers quit their job due to child care issues, while almost a fifth (18%) cited COVID-19 vaccine requirements as the reason for resignation.

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Low-income young Americans were more likely to quit a job

About one in five workers (19%) quit their job at some point in 2021, but the quit rate was much higher among certain segments of the population. Adults under 30 were the group most likely to have quit their job, at 37%. In comparison, only 17% of workers aged 30 to 49 and 9% of those aged 50 to 64 left their jobs last year.

Low-wage Americans were also much more likely to have left their jobs in the past year than those with higher incomes. About a quarter (24%) of low-income adults quit their job in 2021, compared to 18% of middle-income adults and 11% of high-income adults.

For many of these workers, their decision appears to have paid off in the form of better benefits, higher pay and increased flexibility. Most (56%) of employees who found a new job now have better pay, and about half (53%) said they have more opportunities for advancement such as promotions.

Yet many workers who left their jobs in 2021 have been unable to find a new position – around 22% are not working full-time or part-time. Even among workers who found another job, one-fifth (20%) said it was a difficult process.

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College graduates were more likely to find better-paying jobs

Among workers who left their jobs last year, college graduates seem to be doing better in their new role than those with less education.

Two-thirds (66%) of college-educated workers now earn more than they did in their former jobs, compared to 51% of workers who didn’t get a college degree. And 63% of college graduates now have more opportunities for advancement, compared to 49% of those without a degree.

Although a college degree can pay off in the form of higher earnings, many graduates are burdened with the added cost of student loan repayments. Borrowers with private student debt may consider refinancing to lower their monthly payments while fixed rates are low. You can compare current student loan rates in the chart below and use Credible’s student loan calculator to decide if refinancing is right for you.


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