The COVID-19 pandemic brought about an increase in the number of Americans quitting their jobs, a phenomenon now widely referred to as “The Great Resignation.” A recent YouGov poll asked Americans about their experiences with quitting or voluntarily leaving jobs in the past.
First, how many Americans are currently employed? Of adult citizens who have worked for an employer at some point in their lives, either part-time or full-time, 33% are currently employed full-time, 23% are retired, 13% work part-time, 10% are unemployed, 8% are permanently disabled, and 6% are homemakers. More men (39%) are employed full-time than women (29%), and more women (10%) are homemakers than men (2%).
Of Americans who have worked for an employer, four in five say they have voluntarily left a job at some point in their lifetime. Gender does not appear to affect quitting rates, as men (79%) and women (82%) are similarly likely to say that they have left a job voluntarily in their lifetime. However, family income may play a role in whether people decide to leave a job or not: Americans who have been employed and have a family income higher than $100,000 are more likely to have voluntarily left a job (90%) than are those with family income between $50,000 and $100,000 (83%), and those with family income below $50,000 (76%).
Of Americans who have been employed and have not quit or voluntarily left a job before, two-thirds (64%) say they have wanted to quit or leave in the past, while one-third (33%) say they have not wanted to quit or leave.
How recently have people chosen to leave jobs?
Of those who have ever been employed and have voluntarily quit or left a job, 15% say they quit in the past year, 18% say they did between one and three years ago, and 65% say they quit four or more years ago.
How long did Americans stay at the most recent job they decided to leave?
Among Americans who have quit or voluntarily left a job, 29% say they were at the job for up to one year, 29% say they were at the job between one and three years, and 40% say they were at the job for four years or more before leaving.
Of workers who have left a job in the past year, 55% had been at the job for up to one year and 28% had been at the job between one and three years. Only 18% had been at the job for four years or more.
People who have left jobs more recently were leaving after less time on the job, which is consistent with more turnover in the job market lately. It could also reflect, though, that people whose last choice to leave a job happened longer ago are more prone to staying on jobs longer generally, unrelated to the overall job market.
Why do Americans leave their jobs?
The most stated reason among Americans who have quit or voluntarily left a job — when faced with a list of 18 options and the choice to select as many as apply — is having a bad boss or bad management, with 30% saying this is one of the reasons they quit. One-quarter (23%) of Americans say a low salary is one of the reasons they left, and 21% name getting a better job offer. One in five (19%) say a bad working condition or schedule contributed to their decision to leave a job, 17% named a bad work culture or bad coworkers, 17% say there was no progress or room for growth, and 17% say the job was bad for their personal life or health.
Men (26%) are more likely to say getting a better job offer was one of the reasons for leaving than women were (17%), while women are more likely to say that having to leave to provide care for a family or dependent was a reason to leave (10%, compared to 3% for men).
However, men and women are equally likely to list low salaries as reasons for leaving a job (23% each), the job being bad for their personal life or health (17% each), being burned out on the work (15% each). Men and women are also similarly likely to list bad management or a bad boss as the reason for leaving (30% for men and 31% for women).
The reasons for leaving also vary by age: Low salaries are given more frequently as reasons to leave by adults under 30 (41%) than by those between ages 30 and 44 (29%), those between ages 45 and 64 (21%), and those 65 and older (10%).
What happens after people leave their jobs?
Of Americans who have quit or voluntarily left jobs, most (58%) say they did not have another job secured before leaving. Men (48%) are more likely than women (32%) to say they had a job secured before they left.
When reflecting on whether leaving the job was the right decision or not, 91% of Americans who have quit a job in the past say they made the right decision and only 6% say they did not make the right decision; 3% are not sure. There was little difference in whether people who had left jobs thought it was the right decision by gender, and by whether the person leaving had the next job lined up.
Age seems to play a role in regretting the most recent decision to leave: Adults under 30 are more likely to say they regret their decision (14%) than are those between ages 30 and 44 (8%), those between ages 45 and 64 (4%), and those over 65 (3%).
This poll was conducted on July 27 - 29, 2022, among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this YouGov poll.
Image: Audtakorn Sutarmjam / EyeEm via Getty