Staffing Kansas City

Making Sense of the Great Resignation

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In 2021, there was a lot of talk about The Great Resignation. Throughout the year, articles analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and made comparisons between what was happening locally and what was taking place nationally.

In December, Derek Thompson, a staff writer at The Atlantic, wrote an article titled, “Three Myths of the Great Resignation”, questioning the most popular assumptions about The Great Resignation. Below are the main takeaways from this well written article.

Breaking it Down

  1. Increase in Resignation – Often these resignations are about low-wage workers “upgrading” to better jobs in industries where wages are rising. While employees are technically quitting, they are taking on new jobs, not leaving the workforce. Some of the highest levels of resignation are within the foodservice and accommodation industries. These same industries added 2 million employees in 2021, creating one in three net new jobs in 2021.


  1. Burnout among white-collar employees – Throughout the pandemic, there’s been frequent talk about burnout among remote white-collar workers. Thompson shared resignations for leisure and hospitality workers are actually four-times faster than for professional and business services, which is the largest white-collar sector. In fact, he reports self-reported burnout is often greater in industries where workers are less likely to quit.


“I’m suggesting that we shouldn’t conflate white-collar burnout with whatever’s driving lower-wage workers to hop around,” Thompson said. “Given the government statistics and private survey dates we currently have, these just seem like different phenomena.”


  1. Unique to 2021 – The Great Resignation was a prediction for 2021. While there are a large number of Americans over the age of 65 without a disability who left the workforce and haven’t returned, most groups are returning to participate in the workforce, according to Thompson. He argues the departures by those aged 65 and older could be reported more accurately as retirements, not resignations.

“To put it as concisely as possible: The Great Resignation is mostly a dynamic “free agency” period for low-income workers switching jobs to make more money, plus a moderate surge of early retirements in a pandemic,” Thompson concluded.