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    'I Quit My Job' Is a Signal of Economic Recovery

    With new opportunities and a different perspective as the pandemic eases, workers are choosing to leave their jobs in record numbers.At some point early this year, Justin Hoffman concluded that he was being underpaid.The marketing director at an orthopedic practice in Findlay, Ohio, Mr. Hoffman was making $42,000 a year — about $13,000 less, by his count, than people were making in similar jobs elsewhere.But when he asked for a raise in March, he was given only a small bump in pay. “That was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.So after some careful thinking, Mr. Hoffman, 28, did what he had long ached to do: He quit. His last day was June 4.Mr. Hoffman is among millions of workers who have voluntarily left their jobs recently, one of the most striking elements of the newly blazing-hot job market. According to the Labor Department, nearly four million people quit their jobs in April, the most on record, pushing the rate to 2.7 percent of those employed.The rate was particularly high in the leisure and hospitality industry, where competition for workers has been especially fierce. But the number of those quitting registered across the board.Economists believe that one reason more workers are quitting is simply a backlog: By some estimates, more than five million fewer people quit last year than would otherwise be expected, as some workers, riding out the labor market’s convulsions, stuck with jobs they may have wanted to leave anyway. (And the millions of involuntary job losses during the pandemic surely accounted for some of the reduction in quitting.) Now that the economy is regaining its footing, workers may suddenly be feeling more emboldened to heed their impulses.But another factor may be the speed with which the economy has reawakened. As the pandemic has receded and the great reopening has swept across the country, businesses that had gone into hibernation or curtailed their work force during the pandemic have raced to hire employees to meet the surging demand.At the same time, many people remain reluctant to return to work because of lingering fears of the virus, child care or elder care challenges, still-generous unemployment benefits, low wages or other reasons.The result has been an explosion of job openings, despite a relatively high unemployment rate, as businesses struggle to recruit and retain employees — a dynamic that has placed power more firmly in workers’ hands. With employers offering higher wages to attract candidates, many workers — especially in low-wage positions in restaurants and hotels — are leaving their jobs and jumping to ones that pay even slightly more.“There’s a lot of churn in low-wage jobs where people don’t really have a career progression,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter. “If you find a job that offers just marginally more, there’s no cost to you in switching.”More than 740,000 workers quit jobs in leisure and hospitality in April, the Labor Department said, for a rate of 5.3 percent. A vast majority were in accommodation and food service.The pandemic has driven workers to quit for other reasons as well. With fewer opportunities for spending, some people were able to save money and pay down their debts, giving them a cushion to leave jobs with which they were dissatisfied. Other workers, disinclined to give up remote work, are abandoning jobs that are no longer affording them as much flexibility.For Mr. Hoffman, the decision to leave his job was the culmination of months of perceived injustices, which he said he was able to evaluate more clearly because of the pandemic.As coronavirus cases swelled in the fall, he asked to work from home because of the risk he feared he posed to his sister, whose immune system is compromised. His request was denied, he said, crystallizing his sense that he was not respected or valued.Over the last year, with the pandemic limiting his social interactions, he began to network over Twitter with other people in marketing. That was how he determined that he was being significantly underpaid.Mr. Hoffman, who is now looking for work, said he probably would have quit eventually. But the pandemic, he said, hastened his decision.“I think that if the pandemic hadn’t happened, then things wouldn’t have turned out this way,” he said. “It didn’t just change my perspective on my compensation, but I think it’s changed a lot about my understanding of the relationship between employers and employees.”A restaurant in Louisville, Ky., advertised it was hiring. More than 740,000 workers quit jobs in leisure and hospitality in April, the Labor Department said.Amira Karaoud/ReutersOn a more philosophical level, the constant threat of illness, more time with family members, leisure time that gave way to new passions — all may have prompted some workers to reassess how they want to spend their time. Burned out, some people have left their jobs for once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like traveling the world. Others have seen an opportunity to shift careers or branch out on their own.Start-ups surged during the pandemic, particularly in Black communities, as stimulus checks and unemployment benefits helped seed entrepreneurs’ dreams and bolster their confidence.“The pandemic, for a lot of people, was really stressful and caused a lot of uncertainty, so I think what a lot of people did was reflect on their lives,” said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University who studies employee resignations.Dr. Klotz said people were accustomed to work being at the center of their lives and identities — a reality that may have shifted during the pandemic.“In general, we want a life of contentment and a life that has purpose,” he said. “And I think for many people, they’ve discovered that contentment and purpose for them may lie outside of work.”That was the case for Matt Gisin, 24, who gave notice at his job as a graphic designer at a health and wellness company this month. During the pandemic, he was able to work remotely, and without a commute, he had more time for hobbies like CrossFit and video game streaming.“I got very adjusted to all of this time and all of this freedom,” he said.But slowly, his company began requiring employees to come back into the office, first for two days a week, then three, then four. With so many people commuting to work in their cars, his trip from his home in Mamaroneck, N.Y., to the middle of Long Island could stretch to two hours each way, leaving him little time for his pastimes.“I wasn’t happy anymore,” he said. “I was finding happiness in a lot of outside activities so I took this kind of leap to leave.” He now hopes to find a job in the video game industry.Economists expect the elevated level of quitting to continue for some time, as the pandemic eases and the economy rebalances.“I would be surprised if this ended before the summer ended,” said Andrew Chamberlain, the chief economist for the hiring site Glassdoor. But he also said there was an “expiration date”: A high number of workers quitting will contribute to a labor shortage, eventually forcing employers to raise wages and provide other incentives, which will help lure workers back and re-establish economic equilibrium.In the meantime, he said, workers — especially those with low wages — will continue to gain leverage over employers.“The longer these shortages persist, the more bargaining power you put into the hands of very low-skilled workers,” he said. “There is some evidence that employers are moving in response, and that’s unusual.” More

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    At Saks, Return to Office Means Mandatory Vaccines, Optional Manicures

    Marc Metrick, the company’s chief executive, says employees will have more flexibility but for reasons having to do with corporate culture, “the default needs to be our office.”After more than a year of remote work, Marc Metrick, the chief executive of Saks, has a message for the company’s 500 corporate employees in New York: Starting in September, the office will again become the company’s primary workplace. More

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    Companies Put Return-to-Work Plans in Motion

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesRisk Near YouVaccine RolloutNew Variants TrackerBuildings in Manhattan, where the amount of sublet office space available to rent surged nearly 50 percent last year.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York TimesReturn-to-Office Plans Are Set in Motion, but Virus Uncertainty RemainsMany employers are not making a decision until many workers are vaccinated. And some are making plans for “hybrid” work arrangements.Buildings in Manhattan, where the amount of sublet office space available to rent surged nearly 50 percent last year.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York TimesSupported byContinue reading the main storyJulie Creswell, Gillian Friedman and March 3, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETA year and a pandemic ago, over 100,000 people filled the central business district in Charlotte, N.C., pouring out of offices, including several recently built skyscrapers, and into restaurants, bars and sports venues. Then as the coronavirus sent employees to their homes, much of the city center quickly went quiet and dark.The return of those employees to their offices has been halting and difficult. Last fall, Fifth Third Bank began bringing back workers, but soon reversed course. LendingTree, which is moving from the suburbs to the city, is waiting for the end of the school year. Wells Fargo has delayed its return to the office several times, telling its employees recently that they will continue to work remotely through at least May 1. And Duke Energy will bring some employees back in June, and most of the 6,000 people at its headquarters in September, when children should be able to go back to schools.Corporate executives around the country are wrestling with how to reopen offices as the pandemic starts to loosen its grip. Businesses — and many employees — are eager to return to some kind of normal work life, going back to the office, grabbing lunch at their favorite restaurant or stopping for drinks after work. But the world has changed, and many managers and workers alike acknowledge that there are advantages to remote work.While coronavirus cases are declining and vaccinations are rising, many companies have not committed to a time and strategy for bringing employees back. The most important variable, many executives said, is how long it will take for most employees to be vaccinated.Another major consideration revolves around the children of workers. Companies say they can’t make firm decisions until they know when local schools will reopen for in-person learning.Then there is a larger question: Does it make sense to go back to the way things were before the pandemic given that people have become accustomed to the rhythms of remote work?“Everyone has different comfort levels with coming back,” said Chuck McShane, a senior vice president at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, an organization that has helped lure businesses to the area. “For some companies, it depends on the type of work you’re doing and whether you can remain at home. But a concern about continued remote work is, how do entry-level workers get socialized into the office culture?”About a quarter of employees across the country are going into offices these days, according to Kastle Systems, an office security firm that gets data from 3,600 buildings in the United States.Many companies, paying to rent empty office space, are eager for that number to rise. Their executives believe having employees working side by side improves collaboration, supports the development of younger employees and nurtures the heart and soul of any company — its culture.A mass return to the office would help revive the economies of city centers that have been ghost towns for months.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York TimesA lone pedestrian in Midtown Manhattan. The number of workers returning to the office remains below 20 percent in New York.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York TimesThat’s why some managers like Mark Rose, chief executive of Avison Young, a commercial property consulting and property management firm based in Chicago with offices around the world, is asking employees to return to the office in April.“You’re not going to be fired or written up if you don’t come back, but it is the expectation that, subject to local laws, and subject to your individual issues, that you start to make your way back,” Mr. Rose said about his 5,000 employees. “It absolutely is going to be an expectation.”A mass return to the office would, of course, be a boon for commercial real estate companies like Avison Young. Landlords, whose revenues are under threat as corporations move out or reduce the amount of space they rent, would breathe a sigh of relief. Many tenants have more space than they need. In Manhattan, the amount of sublet office space available to rent surged nearly 50 percent last year and it is currently 27 percent of all available space, the highest share since the period right after the 2008 financial crisis, according to Savills.Moreover, a return to the office would help revive city centers that have been ghost towns for months. Restaurants and bars could start hiring again and returning commuters could generate much-needed revenue for struggling transit systems.The course of the pandemic has largely dictated office attendance. That number crashed in March and April last year as the pandemic took hold and started slowly rising in the late spring, according to Kastle. Another surge in infections after Thanksgiving drove occupancy down but it appears to be on an upswing.There are big regional differences. In large cities in Texas, more than a third of workers are back, while the New York, San Francisco and Chicago areas remain below 20 percent.[embedded content]Some of these regional differences might be explained by how people get to work. “In places where people are commuting through public transportation, we know that makes people much more vulnerable to Covid because of the sheer presence of others, compared to if you’re commuting in your own car,” said Tsedal Neeley, a Harvard Business School professor who studies remote work.The Coronavirus Outbreak More