The Great Resignation: Workers Are Abandoning These Industries

Luxury Hotel Closed due to Coronavirus


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Help Wanted Sign

Quitting Time

“Now Hiring” signs are plastered in the windows of just about every business all over the country, and employers have had to offer better pay, expanded benefits, and even sign-on bonuses to attract workers. While some jobs are more recession-proof than others, several industries have seen an exodus of workers. According to the latest data, 4.3 million workers left their jobs in February 2022, an increase of 94,000 over January, resulting in a record 5 million more jobs open than unemployed people in the U.S. 

Cheapism reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and averaged it for the final five months of 2021 to pinpoint the industries seeing the biggest labor forces losses. Our list includes data for “quit rates,” representing jobs people leave voluntarily as a percentage of the total employment for those industries. We got insight on the trends from Maurice "Mo" Cayer, a distinguished lecturer in industrial and organizational psychology and management at New Haven University in Connecticut.

Related: Most Satisfying Jobs That Also Pay Well

Frustrated owner sitting at table in closed cafe, small business lockdown due to coronavirus.

Accommodation and Food Services

Quit Rate: 6.3%

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses in the industry had to shut down completely, especially if they were unable to get government help. Some restaurants tried to stay open with a focus on takeout; some closed forever; and some went into hibernation. As we adjusted to life during COVID, many tried for a resurgence and started to rehire. But with so many jobs available in the industry and not enough people willing to fill them, the employees that do work at understaffed restaurants will experience a more stressful, toxic work environment. This toxicity is often what causes restaurant staff to search for greener pastures. “Short staffing begets more short staffing,” Cayer says.

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Luxury Hotel Closed due to Coronavirus

Leisure and Hospitality

Quit Rate: 5.9%

The leisure and hospitality industry at hotels, lodges, and the like runs hand-in-hand with accommodation and food services, and similarly, the harder it is for a hotel to bring on more employees, the more job responsibilities fall on existing staff members, causing them to feel stressed and overworked.

Related: Jobs That'll Soon Be Lost to Automation

Closing the store
NoSystem images/istockphoto

Retail Trade

Quit Rate: 4.6%

If you haven’t driven past a store with a sign denoting a change in hours due to staffing shortages, you might be a unicorn. This issue includes retailers cutting worker hours to offset pressures from not having enough staff on hand. Retailers are trying to raise pay rates to attract new hires, but it’s just not enough, Cayer says, and a stressful work environment leads to employee apathy. “People who don’t have a good social connection with co-workers and have the hours they want are going to be more likely to quit,” he says.

New York during the COVID-19 emergency.
Massimo Giachetti/istockphoto

Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation

Quit Rate: 3.9%

The arts, entertainment, and recreation industry fell to the wayside early in the pandemic and hasn’t been able to fully reemerge, thanks to staffing shortages. Though the industry doesn’t make up a large portion of the overall labor force in the country, the future of these businesses is uncertain, and therefore lacks stability for employees. The instability is off-putting and not worth the risk to workers, Cayer says.

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Trade, Transportation, and Utilities

Quit Rate: 3.6%

Made up predominantly of wholesale trade and shipping of goods, this industry has made the most headlines in the transportation sector, which has seen a decrease of truck drivers finding other jobs with higher pay that allow them to be home more. Despite the uproar over supply chains in the past year, “transportation is relatively stable, it’s not an industry that swings wildly back and forth,” Cayer says.

Related: Big-Name Companies Paying at Least $15 an Hour

COVID-19 Home office

Professional and Business Services

Quit Rate: 3.5%

When COVID arrived, many businesses switched to remote work. A lot of baby boomers decided to retire rather than adapt to the new style, causing quite a blow to many companies, Cayer says. Other boomers who weren’t ready for retirement still left — to start their own businesses.

Related: Undervalued Jobs We Appreciate Now More Than Ever

Close-up view of a selection of different used clothes for men, women and children on the rack in a second hand shop or thrift store
Karl-Hendrik Tittel/istockphoto

Nondurable Goods

Quit Rate: 3%

Throughout the pandemic there were massive shortages of nondurable goods — which is all the stuff expected to last less than three years, from clothing to beer to paper goods, grouped together by the BLS in one category — causing fatigue and stress to workers and leading them to seek other work.

Tired doctor with glasses in hand holding his eyes in clinic

Health Care and Social Assistance

Quit Rate: 2.7% 

These have been the most reliable professions to enter over the past several decades. After all, the need for health care is never going to fade away. But in the past two years, the industry has been all but swallowed whole by the pandemic. Health care workers are more fatigued than ever. “Nursing is an incredible essential worker service, and yet there are 100,000 fewer nurses that are needed by the end of the year,” Cayer says, “You can expect to see continued turnover.” 

Related: Jobs That Make Social Distancing Difficult

Architect and engineer discussing on construction site with plan


Construction has been declining over the past two decades and dropped more since the pandemic began. Construction can have unsafe and unpleasant working conditions, long hours, and risk of injuries and strain, and the combination is beginning to outweigh the benefits for workers. Some are leaving the industry to focus on pursuing higher education and careers that require a degree.

Related: Well-Paying Jobs That Require a Year or Less of Training or School

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Education and Health Services

Quit Rate: 2.5% (tie)

Education and health services workers are some of the most undervalued and unappreciated, despite their importance. During the pandemic teachers’ burdens have grown as they’ve had to adapt to virtual learning environments and enforce requirements around masks, social distancing, and quarantines. Some have decided that pursuing other career opportunities is the better path — a trend that’s only expected to grow.

Related: Companies With the Most Work-From-Home Jobs Right Now

abandoned industrial warehouse

Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities

Quit Rate: 2.5% (tie)

Warehouses have often been a go-to for people looking for work, since there always seem to be openings. But despite the availability, some attractive benefits packages, and competitive wages, the industry is experiencing high turnover. Amazon is one of the largest employers in the nation but sees high quit rates because employee productivity is closely monitored, which causes stress, Cayer says.

Related: What Really Gross, Dangerous, and Grueling Jobs Pay

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