The geography of the Great Resignation: First-time data shows where Americans are quitting the most

·3 min read

Kentucky, Idaho, South Dakota and Iowa reported the highest increases in the rates of workers who quit their jobs in August, according to a new glimpse of quit rates in the labor market released Friday.

The largest increase in the number of quitters happened in Georgia, with 35,000 more people leaving their jobs. Overall, the states with the highest rates of workers quitting their jobs were Georgia, Kentucky and Idaho.

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The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics builds out a portrait of August's labor market, with historic levels of people leaving jobs and a near-record number of job openings showing the leverage workers have in the new economy. It offers the first detailed insight into the state-by-state geography of this year's Great Resignation.

"It is a sign of health that there are many companies that are looking for work - that's a great sign," said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide. "The downside is there are many workers that won't come back in. And long term you can't sustain a labor market that's as tight as it is right now."

Nick Bunker, an economist at the online jobs platform Indeed, said it was notable that more-rural states had the highest quit rates.

"Service-sector jobs tend to be concentrated in more dense, urban parts of the country, so to see the quits rate pick up in other places was interesting," he said. That "may be a sign there's more competition in those parts of the country than other parts."

The data comes on top of another government snapshot showing that 4.3 million people quit jobs in August - about 2.9% of the workforce, a pandemic-era record.

The phenomenon is being driven in part by workers who are less willing to endure inconvenient hours and poor compensation, and are quitting to find better opportunities. There were 10.4 million job openings in the country at the end of August - down slightly from July's record high, which was adjusted up to 11.1 million, but still a tremendously high number. This gives workers enormous leverage as they look for a better fit.

Mary Kaylor is part of that groundswell.

She left her job in early July after her employer began calling workers back to the office, saying they'd have to be at their desks at least four days a week.

But her old commute - 90 minutes each way, or worse with traffic, from where she lives north of Baltimore to her office in Alexandria, Va. - was no longer acceptable to her.

"It was affecting my health, and I couldn't get my work done," she said. "I decided, 'Why am I doing this?'"

So Kaylor resigned, even though she did not have another job lined up. It didn't take long for her to land on her feet, however.

Just a few weeks after she quit, a recruiter reached out to her on LinkedIn about a position at Robert Half, a San Ramon, Calif.-based consulting company. The job allowed her to work remotely, and she said she felt that the company had a very employee-centric culture that made the switch easy from afar. She started the new position in August.

"Everything that I had read about the jobs market being hot and opportunities being out there was absolutely 100% correct," she said.

Now she says she has a job she likes, but with more balance at home and time to take care of herself with no commute.

"I've been able to get back to a regular workout and exercise routine - time to run in the morning and do yoga," she said. "All the time I used to spend sitting on the Beltway I can spend outside, so I'm excited about that."

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