Quitting your job isn't cool anymore

While job-hopping has reverted to pre-pandemic levels, it doesn't necessarily indicate that employees are content with their current positions. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that job openings, hires, layoffs, and quits remained relatively steady in November. Of particular note is the level of job quits, which reached approximately the same as seen before the pandemic and the subsequent Great Resignation. In November, there were 3.5 million quits, marking the lowest count since February 2021.  

One reason workers may be less apt to quit is that the hot post-pandemic demand for labor has somewhat subsided.

"The Great Resignation has been followed by the current experience of moderation and even normalization," Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate, said in a written statement. "This is consistent with what Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell describes as the labor market coming into better balance, thinking about the push and pull of supply and demand for workers."

Nick Bunker, economic research director for North America at the Indeed Hiring Lab, noted this change in demand in a written statement.

"Over the past few years, many people have leaped and found a new job," Bunker said. "But while employers are still hiring at a healthy rate, the demand for new hires is cooling down. Less demand for new hires means fewer people quitting old jobs to take new ones."

Companies are also taking back some of their power, particularly with just how much they need to do to attract talent.

"At the height of The Great Reshuffle, we saw a large percentage of professionals quitting or switching jobs within a year of taking on a new role," Kory Kantenga, senior economist at LinkedIn, said in a December statement.

Kantenga said employers were offering higher pay and other kinds of incentives to attract people "at a time where there were many more job openings relative to people looking for work."

"We've seen that shift with hiring slowing over the past 18 months — and many professionals have stayed in their current roles longer, possibly waiting out the uncertainty of the economy," Kantenga said in the statement from December. "However, we expect to see professionals put more focus on the job market in 2024."

But that emphasized focus comes at a time when hiring hasn't really been surging — the number of hires fell slightly in November. Looking ahead, job seekers may have a hard time finding work this year.

Daniel Zhao, lead economist at Glassdoor, pointed out in his recent commentary that November's quit rate of 2.2% was "lower than its 2019 peaks." He also pointed to the recently low hiring rate.

"We should be careful about reading too much into 1 month of data, but the more reliable hires & quits data point to a job market that's cooling to something more like 2017–2018 than 2019," Zhao wrote.

Fewer people resigning doesn't mean workers want to still work the same position with the same routine and duties. Business Insider's Juliana Kaplan reported on "grumpy staying", or people unhappy that they have to stay put.

Aaron Terrazas, chief economist at Glassdoor, said in a written statement that employers "have become humbler in their growth plans and have asked more of their existing workforces."

"We should not assume that employees are more content in their jobs just because they are staying put," Terrazas added. "In some sense, this is shaping up to be a key challenge for companies in 2024: More employees who aren't necessarily thrilled to be where they are, but also aren't leaving due to the absence of alternatives."

In addition to the number of hires, job openings also cooled off in 2023 compared to the massive number of potential opportunities seen in 2022. And while the number of job openings per unemployed person ticked up very slightly in November 2023, it's still fairly low relative to the ratios in 2022.

And while people may be continuing to work the same roles, Bunker notes that doesn't mean they can never leave. Bunker said, "Don't confuse this slowdown for a hard crash."

"People are staying at their jobs longer, but they aren't stuck there forever," Bunker said.

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