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National News
Jesse Muller

What do you think is worse, losing your job, or coming back to it after you’ve been fired? For most Americans right now, it's the latter. Ever since the pandemic first spread to America, job loss has been at an all time high; the lockdowns and shutdowns essentially put the economy on hold. Most consumers resorted to buying goods digitally, usually through websites like Amazon. Thus, many businesses without an online presence experienced a decrease in business, and many businesses no longer needed as many employees working in their physical stores. As a result, many businesses let go of many of their employees. Now that shutdowns are ending and America is returning to some sense of normalcy, most people would expect that people would be returning  to their jobs, decreasing the unemployment rate.  However, that is not the case. With what some people are calling the Great Resignation, a large percentage of previously fired workers are opting to not go back to their jobs.

Professor Anthony Klotz of the University of Texas was first to coin the term “the Great Resignation.” Professor Klotz argues that people are not returning to their jobs because of the sort of gap year created by Covid-19. During 2020, many unemployed people were kept afloat by government assistance; thus, millions of people have had time to question and reflect on their career decisions without the weight of having to search for a new job. A study done in 2014 by the College of Management’s School of Behavioral Sciences showed that in times of crisis people tended to reevaluate their life decisions. This trend is evident by the fact that many Americans actually quit their jobs in the later stage of the pandemic. In April 2021, 4 million Americans quit their jobs, and in June later that year almost another 3.9 million people quit. The people who quit have many different reasons behind their decisions, including wanting to stay close to their families, desiring to pursue a more fulfilling career, refusing to deal with Covid restrictions, or trying to make more money. But, all of them lead to the conclusion that if companies and businesses want to stay in business, they are going to have to confront why their staff are not returning in the first place.

The Great Resignation has had a tremendous impact on employers. Those running businesses are scrambling to hire employees and keep their business afloat. According to a CNBC small business survey, a third of small business owners say they have open roles they have not been able to fill for at least three months, and half say it’s gotten much harder to find qualified people to hire compared to a year ago. Economists speculate that this phenomenon will have a negative effect on the entire economy, not just small businesses. If workers are not able to produce, then consumers are not able to buy, which could lead to another decline of in-person shopping similar to the one at the start of the pandemic. Also, if stores cannot work efficiently, then people will  turn to online shopping, reducing the need for retail jobs in general, which will continue to hurt the economy by decreasing job availability.

If this Great Resignation goes on for too long, employees risk the fear of machines taking their jobs. The threat of automation is especially prevalent now, since over the pandemic many retail stores switched over to digital sales as in-person purchases became less available. As a result, sales in e-commerce have grown at  a much higher rate than what they were before the pandemic. The UNCTAD reported that e-commerce’s share of global retail trade went from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020. The McKinsey Global Institute has estimated that e-commerce has grown over three times from what it was in 2019 in the United States alone.  The pandemic made people more familiar with the use of automation, so the trend is likely to continue even as the pandemic improves. Already, the US averages around a 60% population growth rate each year. If people do not come back to work, companies will be forced to turn to e-commerce and automation even further, which would decrease job opportunities and possibly even cause people to lose their current jobs to machines.

Although the situation may seem bad, it's not permanent. The Great Resignation, which is similar to a strike in many ways, is bound to bring change to many industries for better or worse. Either working conditions will improve overall to lure workers back into the workforce, or employers and businesses will find new ways around the lack of available labor, such as resorting to digital or mechanical labor. 

Works Cited

Out With The Old, In With The Few? The Great Resignation Explained: Academics
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