Data Point #2: Quits vs. Layoffs/Discharges

The unemployment rate is 8.3%.  Better than a year ago, but still 8.3%.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there are 12.8 million unemployed workers in the United States.  Most believe that the real number is closer to 18 million – the difference being those who have been unemployed so long that they’ve given up hope in finding a job.

There’s no doubt that the economy is showing signs of improvement.  However, last Tuesday the Dow lost more than 200 points – the single biggest one-day loss in 2012.  Gasoline averages $3.80 a gallon and is predicted to top $4.00/gallon by summer.  Fears of the European economy tanking and taking the U.S. economy with it are still strong.  And the anticipation of a myriad of tax increases hitting businesses and individuals on January 1, 2012 creates enormous uncertainty.

Job satisfaction in the U.S. continues to decline and the percentage of workers who report being engaged is less than 33% by some measures.

So this next data point is somewhat astonishing, and cause for concern by HR professionals everywhere.  According to data released today by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the numbers of workers who are leaving their jobs voluntarily continues to grow and outpace the number of workers who are leaving their jobs involuntarily.

The graph shows that during good economic times the number of workers who leave their jobs voluntarily is larger – significantly larger – than those who are involuntarily terminated.  It stands to reason.  If they don’t like their boss, if they don’t trust their CEO, if their work isn’t meaningful, if another company offers more money – they resign.

It also stands to reason – and the chart shows this clearly – that in bad economic times the number of workers who quit voluntarily drops precipitously. Leaving your job in a really bad economy– without a new one to go to — defies logic.  And unless the situation is unbearable, most people are logical when it comes to their employment and cash flow.

Most would agree that the economy is still bad.  There are still millions of workers looking for jobs.  The economic and political environments are shaky.  Yet the number of people thinking “I can’t take it another day – there’s got to be something better than this:  I quit” is  growing.  In this economy.  With these uncertainties.

     What does this say about the level of dissatisfaction and disengagement within our workforces?

     What does this say about the cultures of our organizations?

     What does this say about our ability to retain the talent that we need?

Well, if you’re an optimist like I am, this is what you think:

     What a great opportunity we have to create a differentiated employee experience!

     What a great time to start strengthening our culture!

     What a great time to start recruiting!



Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, Data Point Tuesday, Employment Data, Engagement, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Data Point #2: Quits vs. Layoffs/Discharges

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  4. Thanks China for posting this. Correct me if I am wrong, but what I am getting at from your blog post is that since more and more people these days in this economy are quitting their jobs that must mean the economy is getting better? What I am visualizing is these people who have the guts to admit to themselves that they cannot take it anymore at their current job are optimistic that there is a better job out there for them. Otherwise, like you were saying, if the economy is indeed not improving and people believe that they will stick with the job they got no matter how miserable it might make them. So, I hope these data points are signs that the economy is indeed getting better!

    Also, even if the economy is improving, we need to not ignore the fact that people are quitting their jobs, of course. So, I agree with what you said about it being a time of recruiting. But also a time to rethink management and corporations internally (as Alex mentioned). Why are these bosses being thought of so negatively? Are they having trouble being motivated because of the economic downturn and are not very optimistic about the future? Apparently. There needs to be a way to get them motivated again to maintain a happy, friendly environment in the workforce so that their employee turnover is not so high these days.

  5. Great job at digesting the labor market data!

    Agreed – a great time to start recruiting. There must be enough internal signals that people are willing to make the jump to get in front of what we hope is a big hiring uptick.

    Maybe the data also shows that companies reduce management training during economic downturns, which means that bad managers don’t improve – even more reason to hit the road and try to find a new job at the first sign of opportunity.

    • Thanks, Alex. This data point — together with all the others that support the notion that we’re quickly approaching the abyss as it relates to American workers and their “stickiness” — should be a great big red flag for talent management leaders in organizations of all sizes. I truly am an optimist and believe that those organizations who take control of their cultures and focus on the employee experience can make huge leaps here. Among the early steps is to start approaching those “A” employees of your competitors or others who have the talent you require. Sitting on the sidelines of this one will ensure failure.

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