DENVER — The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports nearly 40 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in 2021, but according to a USA Today Harris Poll survey, one in five regret that decision.
Some U.S. economists are calling the current state of the job market the Great Resignation Regret, in which workers who quit their jobs during the pandemic want to return to work, and in some cases, want to return to the position they left.
“That doesn't surprise me. I think during the first years of the pandemic, there was so much uncertainty,” said Christina Huber, Metropolitan State University of Denver economics professor. “Now that we're over two years into this, things are kind of returning to normal.”
Huber says there are a few factors enticing Coloradans back to the labor market.
“Unemployment benefits are gone, and people are seeing more job opportunities and maybe higher wages in some jobs,” Huber said. “You're seeing a lot of employers offering things like signing bonuses, "if you come on board, we'll give, you know, an extra several thousand dollars." Or you’ll see slightly higher wages, flexible hours or work-from-home options.”
But Huber says early retirement from baby boomers and lack of Gen-Z part-time workers can explain why the workforce shrunk so much.
“Some baby boomers retired maybe a few years before they would have otherwise, and so those people aren't coming back. And the other generations aren’t large enough," Huber said. "I also think on the other end of the labor market with say, like teenage workers, part-time high school workers, fewer of that generation has some type of part-time job, and that adds to the squeeze that we see in hospitality and customer service."
Sean Fister is the retail manager of Rosemont Provisions, the retail arm of Rosemont Barbershop and Grooming Supply.
“I left my previous job right as the pandemic was really starting. I was definitely suffering from some pretty severe burnout,” Fister said. “I was not aware that I was going to be unemployed for as long as I was. This store opened up right after things started opening up in the pandemic. And we've been we've been lucky to have it since then.”
Fister says while he doesn’t consider himself to be a part of the Great Resignation Regret, he understands why many left the workforce and are now returning.
“I definitely stayed unemployed for longer than I expected to, even though I was looking for different opportunities," Fister said. "I ended up doing grocery delivery for a little while just to try to make ends meet when I wasn't getting enough freelance work. But I was definitely not expecting the situation that I ended up in."
Huber says we can expect even more job market changes over the next year as the country continues to grapple with the effects of the pandemic on the economy.