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Why are so many Coloradans quitting their jobs?

A record 4.4 million people gave their resignations in the United States in September.

COLORADO, USA — Data released by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Colorado was a top state in September for people quitting their jobs. 

A record 4.4 million people gave their resignations in the United States in September. Colorado tied for fourth place, with 4.3% of workers giving their notice in September. 

9NEWS spoke to University of Colorado economics professor Jeffrey Zax about why we are seeing so many quit their jobs in Colorado. Zax has been studying labor economics for decades. 

(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for context and clarity.) 

9NEWS: This period is being called the Great Resignation. Why are so many deciding to leave their jobs?

Zax: There are bad reasons why quits might be going up. That might be people’s health might have deteriorated to the point where they can’t work anymore, or they have loved ones whose health is deteriorated and they feel they need to care for them.

At the same time, there are, I think, a lot of quits that are terrific news. If people are leaving jobs that don’t suit them because they have the expectation they can find something that will suit them better, that is terrific. That’s great for the individuals and it’s great for the economy. So to the extent that these quits are reassigning workers to jobs where they will be more satisfied, more fulfilled, better paid perhaps, that is great news and we want more and more of that to happen.

Do you think the pandemic forced people to reassess their lives and their priorities?

Zax: I think that’s a very astute point, and as we said already, yes, some people suffered greatly during the pandemic and that forced them to reassess. But it’s also true, I think, that the way that the economy responded to the pandemic and in particular the increase in opportunities to work from home and the increase in opportunities to work as an independent contractor or in the service industries for delivery purposes and so forth, I think the economy reshaped itself a bit in order to accommodate the necessary public health responses to the pandemic.

In reshaping, it presented new opportunities to people. So I think part of this quit increase we’re observing is that people probably are going into gig economy-type jobs and they’re going there because they want to. They’re going there voluntarily, and that’s a good thing, and those jobs wouldn’t have been available prior to the pandemic.

What is the economic ripple effect of all these resignations?

Zax: I think it’s terrific, because first, it means people quitting are presumably heading to jobs that they like better. Moreover, they’re sending a signal to their prior employers. They’re telling their prior employers that the deal you gave me actually wasn’t good enough to keep me, and that’s a signal that employers need to hear. If they’re not treating their employees adequately, then they’re not serving themselves, their employees, or the economy as we would like them to.

So to the extent the employers are learning that workers that they thought were happy are not, that’s a wake-up call that they need to hear. It’s one of the few potentially good consequences of the pandemic that we can point to.

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