New Jobs for Nearly Everyone: The Impact of Record-Breaking Turnover
February 15, 2023
For the past two years, turnover has been exceptionally high in the US. In November of 2021, according to government data, more than 4.5 million workers chose to leave their jobs – that’s more than any other time in the twenty years the government has been tracking that information. While turnover proliferates industry and wage-level categories, the rates are especially high in lower wage sectors such as hospitality. In January of 2023, churn was declining, but remained higher than pre-pandemic levels.

In the past, economists have generally regarded turnover as a positive indicator for the economy because “a healthy amount of job-switching allows workers to find the most suitable jobs, and employers to find the employees who will be the best fit,” according to the New York TImes. The idea is that as this process plays out, the most productive firms will attract the most productive workers, which benefits the economy and total productivity.

Optimistic economists even say that this season of unusually high turnover will be good for overall levels of productivity, even if that isn't yet apparent.

Over the past two years, though, for many firms it’s been constant recruiting, constant hiring, and constant training. The real rub? New employees don’t always stick (a striking third of new employees quit approximately 6 months in), and the veterans who become more heavily relied upon to train those new employees and pick up the drop in productivity are more likely to become burnt out.

Economists report that this influx in job-switching may be a factor in the United States’ weak productivity growth over the past several years; total productivity has declined over the past two years.

Productivity is difficult to accurately measure, but is a key indicator of an economy’s health especially during times of high inflation. When productivity is high - or when workers are able to produce more in the same time, then employers are able to pay more per hour without a change in prices or profit levels.

With productivity declining - or stagnant - it becomes more challenging to raise wages, continuing the difficult turnover-induced training treadmill cycle we’re watching currently.

What’s causing these record-breaking turnover numbers?

While difficult to address holistically, three factors are certainly playing in to recent turnover levels.

The first is convenience; with hybrid and remote work becoming the norm, there’s simply less friction and a less intense battle for the time required to brush up that resume and conduct interviews. When in-office full time, it was more challenging to slip away for multiple interview rounds and discreetly invest outside time in job-searching on top of demanding work and (for many) a taxing commute. In the remote and hybrid model, an initial screening call and subsequent Zoom interviews may be able to be scheduled over lunches, or half days, with no need to excuse a sudden level-up in attire.

Wages are a major factor in the decision for employees to move jobs, and for good reason. According to a study by Pew Research Center 60% of people who quit between April 2021 and March 2022 “realized real wage gains,” compared to less than 50% of those who remained with their existing employer.

Finally, the past several years have opened the door for a lot of reflection and seismic changes in lifestyle. Families have reevaluated their care-taking solutions for both children and elders and people in all different domestic scenarios have reconsidered their values and what matters most to them, and career shifts often follow these periods of questions and revelations.

Only time will tell what the ultimate impact on United States’ productivity - and worker satisfaction - will be.

Lauren Lyddon has helped people and organizations to tell their stories for more than a decade. Having tested her love of the creative through the pursuit of an MBA and undergraduate business degrees, she is a writer, editor, and lover of fiction in all its forms (especially theatre, well-written television, and novels). A West coast resident often operating on an East coast schedule, Lauren uses her business background and love of story to serve clients in writing, editing, PR, and more. You can visit her online at



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