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These industries are being impacted most by the Great Resignation

July 18, 2021
Borderless Leadership

Whether you call it the Great Resignation, the big quit, or the turnover tsunami, a lot of people are leaving (or at least thinking about leaving) their jobs. While every sector is being hit, some are suffering greater losses than others.

“We’re seeing white-collar and blue-collar jobs being impacted,” says Jessica Schaeffer, vice president of LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm. “There’s a mass exodus from many industries and roles.”

These are the hardest hit:

Retail hospitality struggling to find talent, says Schaeffer. “Many were put on the front lines during COVID and weren’t getting benefits or a ton of money,” she says. “They worked long hours and their perspective has changed.”

Arran Stewart, co-founder of, a job search site, agrees and says this industry is suffering the greatest losses. “A lot of people are blaming burnout in this scenario, but I don’t believe that’s the case,” he adds.

Several roles were displaced or made redundant during COVID-19, and employees moved into new occupations during the shutdown by finding transferable job skills, such as taking a job in a grocery store after being furloughed.

“Now that the economy is opening back up, we’re seeing stats on applicant data that shows a massive shift back to their former occupations,” says Stewart. “They’re leaving employment that wasn’t ideal to go back to what they were doing originally.”

Another industry that is seeing a surge of resignations is manufacturing, and it’s due to the economy opening back up, says Stewart. “People are always looking for better opportunities,” he says. “There is a shortage of hourly workers for industrial manufacturers and people are going where the money is.”

Manufacturing is a salary-sensitive industry that is prone to movement in labor. “Workers will move to a new employer for a 25-cent wage increase,” says Stewart. “Companies are raising their pay to attract labor, which has created a war on talent.”

High turnover is technology is attributable to burnout, says Stewart.

“Everybody had to move from working in the office to working fully remote, which created a time of high stress and uncertainty,” he says. “Now some companies are insisting that workers go back to offices while others are staying remote or going hybrid. Workers are moving to companies that fit their work style preferences, especially in tech.”

Another industry suffering from employee burnout is healthcare, says Schaeffer. According to NSI Nursing Solutions, a nurse recruiting agency, the turnover rate for staff RNs increased by 2.8% in 2020, reaching 18.7%. Hospitals have a nearly 10% vacancy rate for RNs and recruiting and onboarding a new nurse takes an average of 89 days.

The same is true with physicians. According to Jackson Search, a physician recruiting firm, 54% of physicians surveyed said COVID-19 has caused them to change their employment plans. Of those, half plan to leave their current employer, while 36% are opting to retire early or leave the practice of medicine completely.

Employees who stayed put during the uncertainty of COVID-19 are feeling more confident, says Schaeffer. “During the pandemic we saw one of the best retention rates because people didn’t want to leave,” she says. “We’re at the opposite end of the pendulum. With a stable, strong employee-driven job market, people are ready to leave and go where they can make more money, get better benefits, and find flexibility. We’ve gone from one extreme to another, but it’s just starting to even out.”

While there is a sea of various motives across verticals causing the turnover, Stewart says it’s a lot more expensive to lose and replace an employee than to keep them. “Employers should be talking to their labor force to preempt or limit the amount of employee turnover,” he says. “Studies have found that if three close work colleagues leave, there’s a high chance you may leave, too, which creates regrettable turnover. It can start a rot within the company. If managers are preemptive, asking employees if they’re happy and finding ways to address burnout, it’s easier to retain them. The cost of a complete staff turnover could be astronomical.”

By Stephanie Vozza


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