Employees are quitting their jobs at record rates, but maybe not in Pennsylvania.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics published data this month on August 2021 quit rates, or the rate at which non-farm workers are leaving their jobs. Recently, overall quit rates have increased so much that economists are labeling the phenomenon the Great Resignation. But some states are seeing the effects more than others.
Pennsylvania, in fact, has nearly the lowest quit rate of the whole country, at 2.1% for August 2021; just DC’s is lower, at 1.7%. That number is a significant increase from August 2020, when PA had a quit rate of 1.6%, but still much lower than 4.5% for Kentucky or 4.2% in Georgia. Nationally, the quit rate in August 2021 was 2.9% — a record high for the US.
While Pennsylvania has a comparatively low rate, Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh Chief Strategy and Research Officer Vera Krekanova says it’s not necessarily an indicator of a strong and healthy local economy. Instead, the quit rate and the related turnover rate both rely on factors such as age, available job types and wages.
“A common narrative when we ask people why southwestern Pennsylvania? Or why our region? They always point to what I call the quality of the workforce,” Krekanova said, speaking to regional trends specifically. “There is a lot of evidence from businesses here that they say people have great work ethics, there is a lot of commitment to their careers. People don’t take it as it’s just a job — it is an actual career for a lot of them.” At least locally, she said, that translates into higher loyalty among employees, and could be one of many reasons Pennsylvania has a low quit rate.
On its own, quit rate does not say a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of a region's economy. But it does offer some hints about trends.
Still, she said, it’s hard to assess this number in a vacuum. Instead, the quit rate is better suited to providing context around core statistics like labor force participation and unemployment. For example, if the economy is growing and has a lot of job openings, a high quit or turnover rate might be actually be an indication of opportunity for people to advance their careers.
In addition to the quality of workforce she mentioned, quality of jobs is important to consider as well to better understand the quit rate.
“If you have low quality of jobs, you will see high turnover rates because people exhaust easily from low-paying jobs and they know they can get a new one next week when they recover,” Krekanova said. “So on its own the [quit rate] does not say a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of a region’s economy.”
Given all of those conditions however, a low quit rate at this moment in time is likely good for Pennsylvania’s economy. As the pandemic wanes with increased vaccination rates across the country, businesses of all kinds are seeing increased demand for their services or products. Those dealing with low turnover or quit rates are likely not facing the talent shortages that have been associated with the Great Resignation, the researcher explained, and thus will have the staffing and other resources they need to recover from the pandemic and meet this newly increased demand.
Also important to remember is the fact that this data is from August — only a few months after Pennsylvania started reopening. States that were less conservative about pandemic protections and opted to reopen earlier in the year might have given a chance for that increased demand Krekanova referenced to arrive sooner.
In other words, Pennsylvania may simply be further behind on the timeline toward the Great Resignation than other states like Kentucky, Georgia and Idaho, all of which had more rapid reopening protocols. Though she emphasized this opinion is based largely on anecdotal evidence so far, Krekanova added that “while other parts of the country are seeing these resignations maybe in quarter three or perhaps quarter two, we could start seeing more of the pressures as we end quarter three and go into quarter four.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.-30-