Here’s Why Workers Quit Last Year

Low pay, no opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected were top reasons.

March 15, 2022

Employer Receives a Resignation Notice

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—America’s “quit rate” reached a 20-year high last November, and low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected at work are the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs last year, according to a Pew Research survey. At least a third of respondents said each of these were major reasons why they left.

Those who quit and are now employed at another job are more likely than not to say that their current job has better pay (56%), more opportunities for advancement (53%) and more work-life balance (53%), and flexibility (50%). Of those, 61% say it was at least somewhat easy for them to find their current job, with 33% saying it was very easy.

Roughly half say child-care issues were a reason they quit a job (48% among those with a child younger than 18 in the household). A similar share point to a lack of flexibility to choose when they put in their hours (45%) or not having good benefits such as health insurance and paid time off (43%). Roughly a quarter say each of these was a major reason.

Employed men and women who quit a job in 2021 respond similarly on how their current job compares with their last one. One notable exception is when it comes to balancing work and family responsibilities: 6 in 10 men say their current job makes it easier for them to balance work and family, which is higher than the share of women who say the same (48%).

About 4 in 10 adults who quit a job last year (39%) say it was because they were working too many hours, while 3 in 10 say they were working too few hours. About a third (35%) cite wanting to relocate to a different area, while 18% cite their employer requiring a COVID-19 vaccine as a reason.

Thirty-one percent said their reasons for quitting a job were related to the coronavirus outbreak. Those without a four-year college degree (34%) were more likely than those with a bachelor’s degree or more education (21%) to say the pandemic played a role in their decision.

Pew found that about 1 in 5 non-retired U.S. adults quit a job at some point in 2021, and adults younger than 30 are far more likely than older adults to have voluntarily left their job last year: 37% of young adults and 17% of those ages 30 to 49 say they did this.

Non-white adults who quit a job last year are more likely than their white counterparts to say the reasons include not having enough flexibility (52% vs. 38%), wanting to relocate to a different area (41% vs. 30%), working too few hours (37% vs. 24%) or their employer requiring that they have a COVID-19 vaccine (27% vs. 10%). The non-white category includes those who identify as Black, Asian, Hispanic, some other race or multiple races. Pew says that these groups could not be analyzed separately because of sample size limitations.

A recent survey by Nudge found that 37% of front-line retail workers don’t feel heard by their companies, while 68% of workers say feedback is very or extremely important to them.

Are you looking to hire? NACS has conducted extensive research on what people want in jobs to help retailers communicate the context of jobs by showcasing how they tie into what applicants care about most and what they treasure from previous jobs. Additionally, NACS Magazine dived into how to hire the Gen Z workforce—by understanding what this generation wants from an employer.

The pandemic has increased anxiety and tension for everyone, especially those on the frontlines. NACS Magazine discusses this serious topic in “Mental Health in the Workplace” in the September 2021 issue.