U.S. workers quit at near record rates

Gabby Ianniello didn't have a job lined up when she quit her job in real estate development early last year, wanting more time with family and looking to avoid burnout.

She moved back in with her parents on Long Island, and now she produces a podcast and website called the Corporate Quitter. She says she has no regrets.

"Absolutely not. Best decision ever. There are times where things are stressful and challenging, but I've dealt with more stressful things on my corporate job when I was there. So, there's nothing I can't handle.” And Ianniello has plenty of company.

Nearly 4 million Americans on average quit their jobs each month last year, an unprecedented wave of workplace turnover as the economy emerged from the pandemic-induced recession.

Job openings are near historically high levels as companies seek to rebuild staff or pivot in response to changes in consumer demand... As of December, there were nearly two openings for every unemployed person, according to the Labor Department.

That means that many workers are finding themselves with options - and taking them.

Nick Bunker is head of research at job listings website Indeed.

"What we continue to see is near-historic levels of people leaving their jobs. But what seems to be happening is that people are leaving their old jobs and starting new jobs. As part of the reason why we've seen such strong wage gains in 2021, was that people are getting new jobs at higher wages, which is powering wage growth higher and higher."

That’s leading some economists to say the trend dubbed the "Great Resignation" is more of a great reshuffling as people move into jobs with better pay, more flexibility or to try something new.

Gianfranco Sorrentino, the owner of three Italian restaurants in Manhattan, is experiencing that firsthand. He bumped up the pay but says he’s still struggling to fill jobs. "We've been increasing our minimum wage. The minimum wage in New York should be $15 an hour. We pay $18 an hour for the first jobs, like a porter and dishwasher. We increased all the salary of our management, and we increased that about 15 - 20 percent… // But still, these benefits, they didn't help at all. I mean, we didn't see any increase in the demand of (for) job(s)."

Not all people who quit are moving to better jobs. Economists say some people are struggling to work because of ongoing disruptions with childcare, and others have had to quit because they don't have paid sick time.

Still others are rethinking what they do and how they spend their time.

For Gabby Ianniello, overcoming her fear was the hardest part.

“The thing was, I was so fearful of quitting, right? Because of the money, because of the judgment, because of all those things. But what I recognized was that if I continued to go down the path that I was currently going on, not only would I end up in the same shoes of my higher ups, which some of the people I was look looking up to, I wasn't really aspiring to be, like they weren't presenting the characteristics or the lifestyle that I wanted, but it just dawned on me. We live on this world, this Earth, for about anywhere from 60 to a hundred years, depending on how we take care of ourselves. And so I'd rather spend two or three years kind of struggling, right? Maybe being a little broke while I find that business, while I find that new venture, because then I'm giving myself the opportunity to kind of do what it is that lights me up for the rest of my life."