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Economist: Utah’s Great Resignation fueled by ‘opportunity quits’

OREM, Utah – The number of Utahns quitting their jobs jumped sharply in the month of September, according to updated data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Nationwide in September, a record 4.4 million workers quit their jobs, the report said. The accelerated pace at which people are leaving their employers behind is being called the Great Resignation. 

“Most of the quits that have been going on across the country and here in the state of Utah are quits to go get another job, so the hires are up also,” said Mark Knold, the chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. “So I call most of these opportunity quits.” 

In Utah, 58,000 people said farewell to their employers that month, a 38% increase compared to August when 42,000 Utahns quit. 

According to an analysis from The Wall Street Journal, Utah had the 4th highest percentage increase in job quits in September when compared to the month before. 

For further comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 43,000 Utahns quit their jobs in July and that in June there were 46,000 people giving notice. 

“This is people looking for something better,” Knold said. “Moving up the wage scale, moving up the skill scale, and so on.” 

Knold said the level of people quitting isn’t out of historical norms for the Beehive State. He also attributed some of the job resignations to some older workers deciding to retire due to increased wealth from a booming housing market and the strong stock market. 

“This jump between August and September is a one-month jump,” he said. “We’ll see if it holds for several more months to see if it’s a trend or nothing more than a survey anomaly.” 

As people move up the wage scale, Knold said it’s the leisure and hospitality industry that’s hardest hit in the struggle to attract workers. 

The jump in people quitting their jobs comes at the same time that Utah has the lowest unemployment rate on record with thousands sitting on the sidelines and not returning to the labor force since the pandemic started. 

The lack of workers is causing frustration for business owners.  

“I used to work 8 to 9 hours a day, now I’m working 12 hours a day,” said Mike Neal, owner of Neal’s RV Center in Orem. 

Neal is increasing wages and putting up “help wanted” signs around his dealership after his job listings stopped drawing workers. 

“I set up appoints to come in and be interviewed and they either didn’t show up or they didn’t call,” Neal said. “I didn’t get one person who would actually come in.” 

He’s in need of service technicians and salespeople and is willing to train employees. He said he’s never experienced this type of hiring climate before. 

“Some days I feel like maybe just hanging it up,” he said. “Maybe it’s time to sell and retire.” 

The Utah Retail Merchants Association warns that the labor shortage is hitting just as shoppers are returning to stores. 

“It’s obviously a major concern for us as we move into the holiday season because we do tend to employ a lot of seasonal workers,” said Dave Davis, the association’s president and CEO. “We always ask that customers be patient and recognize that it is difficult to find workers at this time.” 


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