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Alonzo Weston

Alonzo Weston

Here’s a sign of our times: a person holding a sign and panhandling, standing right next to a “help wanted” placard.

Yes, believe it. I’ve seen it several times here in our fair city, where “help wanted” signs are more prevalent on the Belt Highway than payday loan companies and pawn shops.

Jobs are everywhere. However, people are quitting to pursue their dream jobs, hoping for more pay and better employment opportunities.

The idea of more pay and better opportunity has always been an issue in our society. In the past, though, the economy’s downturn was blamed on the lack of jobs. Today, the problem is too many open jobs and not enough workers.

It’s not just here in St. Joseph, but all over the nation. There’s even a name for it. It’s not the New Deal, the Great Society or the Great Depression. We’re living in “the Great Resignation.”

People are leaving their jobs in pursuit of more money and more happiness.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced in August that 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9% of the workforce, quit their jobs so far this year.

What’s happening now is not like anything we’ve ever seen before, and it’s happening in all industries. It’s not like in the past, where a tight job market led to a plethora of jobs.

Economists and pollsters have numerous guesses as to what’s going on.

Is it the generous government benefits due to the pandemic that have made people unwilling to work certain jobs? Is it people angling for better pay after years of stagnant salaries?

Is it the closing of schools, the relocation and closing of businesses? Or is it the fear of face-to-face settings and pandemic anxiety playing a role? Experts say it could be a mixture of all these things.

Texas A&M psychologist Anthony Klotz, who is recognized as the one who first predicted and coined the term “the Great Resignation,” credits “pandemic epiphanies” with motivating many workers to leave their jobs for greener pastures, as quoted in Planet Money’s recent newsletter.

Some people also got used to the remote work from home due to the pandemic and refuse to leave their sanctuaries and safe havens.

The U.C. Berkeley economist Ulrike Malmendier predicted that the legacy of forced teleworking, home schooling and other social and economic changes will continue to shape our choices long after the viral danger recedes. At the very least, many people will be working new jobs.

At the most base level of distress caused by “the Great Resignation,” many of us bemoan the fact that restaurants and retail outlets are closing or lack staff, which limits our choices and extends our wait times.

A survey of major U.S. retailers conducted by Korn Ferry consulting firm in April found that in spite of businesses implementing referral programs, offering sign-on bonuses and increasing raise frequency, these things only matters to a certain degree.

Maybe no one pays attention to the fact that in a growing society of people feeling the world owes them something, they just don’t think they have to start at the bottom. Maybe this is just what our “everyone gets a trophy” exercise has wrought.

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