Inflation pushes some workers to new jobs — and some regrets

For some, the ‘Great Resignation’ has become the Great Regret. A new survey shows one in four workers who recently quit now regret their decisions, but most still believe they can make more money by switching jobs.

laid off worker layoff resignation leaving job
Lee Charlie / Shutterstock

Despite an extremely low unemployment rate in first half of 2022, job seekers are bracing for conditions to worsen in light of growing concerns about inflation, gas prices, and a potential recession, according to a new survey by job search platform Joblist.

The survey showed 80% of those seeking jobs expect the US to enter a recession in the next year and 49% anticipate that the job market will get worse over the next six months. As a result, 60% of job seekers feel more urgency to find a job now before market conditions change.

Notably, one in four (26%) who quit their previous job during the Great Resignation now say they regret the decision, and 42% say their new job has not lived up to their expectations.

payscale great resignation graphic Joblist

As regret sets in, 17% of respondents indicated they would go back to their old job and another 24% said they’re at least open to returning. And 23% indicated their former employer has reached out to them about coming back, according the Q2 US Job Market Report from Joblist. (The company conducted five surveys in April, May, and June involving 15,158 US respondents.)

Even so, 78% of job seekers surveyed by the company still believe they can make more money by switching organizations.

“Do some people regret changing jobs? Of course they do. Buyer's remorse is a fact,” said Lisa Rowan, a vice president for human resources software and services research at IDC. “[But] I think the cases mentioned [in Joblist’s survey] are being a bit overblown.”

Retaining tech talent and attracting new employees remains a top concern among upper management, according to Rowan. She compared IDC’s HR Decision-Maker Survey from 2021 and this year's recently completed survey and found little difference between the two in terms of talent attraction.

“In my view, the Great Resignation is still occurring," she said. "To put on my fortuneteller’s glasses, I think the resignations may begin to slow down later this year, but they have not yet. As inflation continues to rise unabated, some businesses will suffer and perhaps start curtailing hiring. That will bring about a slowdown in job changing.”

The number of workers quitting over the past year has remained relatively steady at more than four million each month, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

bls workers quitting per month chart US Bureau of Labor Statistics/Foundry

The number of US workers quitting their jobs has remained over 4 million per month for the past year.

Mathew Merker, a research manager for Talent Acquisition and Strategy at IDC, agreed with Rowan, saying the Great Resignation is ongoing. Inflation may force organizations to pull back on hiring, Merker said, but it is also causing more workers to consider alternatives with higher pay options if corporate salaries are not keeping pace.

“The grass not always being greener is pretty common and not something new to the Great Resignation, maybe it’s just amplified slightly by the volume of moves,” Merker said.

Concerns about recession are real, however, Merker said. “...That may mean those resigning may not do so until they have somewhere else to go. But that doesn’t mean they won’t go if there’s a better [quality of life] or increased salary,” he said.

(Joblist's report is not the only study showing the impacts from an impending economic downturn. IT employment consultancy Janco Associates released a report last week that showed IT job openings for entry-level positions have declined significantly because of fears of looming recession.)

Overall, Joblist explored a variety of topics facing US workers, including how pay raises compare to inflation, the effect of high gas prices on commuters, regrets about the Great Resignation, and what’s causing a recent uptick in “unretirements.”

Key findings include:

  • Gas prices are a major concern for most commuters, with 59% claiming that rising costs at the pump are placing a “high” or “very high” level of financial strain on them.
  • Of the early retirements brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, 60% of workers looking to re-enter the workforce say they are simply “looking for something to do,” while only 27% cite financial reasons.
  • 41% of workers received a pay raise in the first half of 2022, but only 28% of these raises were more than the ~8.5% inflation rate.

“In our survey, we found that pay raises are common so far in 2022, but typically are not large enough to offset inflation,” the Joblist report stated.

payscale concern for recession graphic Joblist

Tony Guadagni, senior principal in research firm Gartner’s human resources practice, said while most pay raises over the past year were well below inflation rates, he expects that to change.

“Ultimately wages will catch up. It’s going to be slow,” he said. “It really has to do with the way compensation is determined. Virtually all organizations set compensation on the market. They have a series of benchmarks about what organizations are paying for a specific job position and occupation. That’s what sets the salary.

“Ultimately inflation will drive salaries up," Guadagni said.

And while recession fears are rising — 80% of job seekers expect the US to enter a recession in the next year — 78% of workers told Joblist that they can still make more money by switching jobs. That's the same result as in a November 2021 Joblist survey.

payscale percent of raise to change jobs graphic Joblist

Even so, any increase in wages will be slow because organizations don’t want to adjust compensation in response to external changes. “Rather than having to be in the position of adjusting salaries for all of these dynamics and external factors, they really just base it on market rates,” Guadagni said.

As for higher gas prices "employers generally are doing little to alleviate the strain — only 8% of commuters reported that their employer had taken any measures to help offset gas costs, Jobslist reported.

Another revelation from Joblist’s survey involves “unretirements,” which are now on the rise. According to Joblist, most of those seeking to re-enter the workforce are “happy” (52%) or “excited” (42%) to get back to work, and 79% are looking exclusively for part-time jobs.

“Job seekers are worried that a recession is coming and are feeling more urgency now to find jobs before conditions change,” Kevin Harrington, CEO of Joblist, said in the report. “So far, the market is proving mostly resilient, despite these job seeker concerns. Hopefully that trend continues in the months ahead.”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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