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Workers are resigning at record rates. That's good for the economy.

CBS News logo CBS News 6/21/2021 Irina Ivanova
text: Activists Rally In Washington, DC For $15 Minimum Wage © Getty Images Activists Rally In Washington, DC For $15 Minimum Wage

For two years, John White has been trying to get a permanent job at the company where he's a contractor, but his applications to open positions there have been rejected five times. Company policy forbade contractors from working remotely during the pandemic, so even while his colleagues worked from home, White has been commuting to work. "I've physically been in the office every day that I have worked here," recalled White, 38. 

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When he's asked for raises, the staffing company and the client each blamed the other party. The last straw was when he asked his direct manager for a raise. According to White, she suggested he "leave and come back in under a different contracting company."  

White did leave — for a competitor. Four days after this conversation, the Louisville resident lined up a job offer with a rival company paying an additional $2 more per hour, as well as paid time off and health insurance. On his last day, he brought in a cake, bearing the message, "Sorry for your loss."


Video: Labor experts say post-pandemic resignation boom may be looming (CBS News)

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White is one of millions of American workers who've quit their jobs in recent months. Even with 9.8 million people unable to find employment, others are quitting at record rates — pushing the "quits rate" to never-before-seen levels.

Some workers are leaving for new jobs, with better pay or remote-friendly working conditions. Others have decided to start their own businesses rather than collect a paycheck. Still others are quitting with no firm plans, confident they can get a better deal elsewhere as the economy rebounds from the pandemic recession.

a man wearing glasses: John White at E3, a trade event for the video game industry. The 38-year-old help-desk contractor left his job for a competitor after being passed over for raises and promotions. © Provided by CBS News John White at E3, a trade event for the video game industry. The 38-year-old help-desk contractor left his job for a competitor after being passed over for raises and promotions.

"The rate at which people are quitting is ridiculously high, given how high unemployment still is," said Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "People are so confident in their prospects of finding a new job that they're quitting at unprecedented rates."

Nearly 4 million Americans left their jobs in April, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — an unprecedented number in the two decades the government has been tracking this data, pushing the quits rate 24% higher than it was before the pandemic. (Layoffs, which peaked at 13 million in March 2020, have come down to more typical monthly levels of under 2 million.)

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