What caught my eye this week.
According to the BBC, the Great Resignation in the US is ‘over’:
Since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in 2020, millions of workers have left their jobs.
In the US, 47 million people quit in 2021, and 50 million more in 2022, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The continued exodus was so significant that in May 2021, Anthony Klotz, then-associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, coined the term ‘Great Resignation’ to put a name to the trend.
The Great Resignation was unprecedented – and particularly striking against a backdrop of incredible global uncertainty. Now, however, economists say it’s over.
Something similar happened in the UK to a lesser extent too. Employment has remained surprisingly resilient. And in a strong jobs market it’s obviously easier to switch jobs.
I’d also suggest inflation is an incentive and a driver. A company constitutionally equipped to give maximum pay rises of 5%, say, can quickly find most of its workforce disgruntled and playing job Frogger when inflation is nudging 10% and salaries at rivals have been re-calibrated accordingly.
What has apparently been distinctive with the UK’s post-Covid workforce – or otherwise – though is the rise in people too sick to work.
In November the ONS said 2.5m people cited long-term sickness as the reason for their economic inactivity. Before Covid that number was two million. Both the half-a-million increase and the total look pretty chunky, even in the context of the nearly nine million economically inactive overall.
Nobody seems quite sure what’s going on. Long Covid was blamed a lot at first, but a House of Lords committee recently concluded that early retirement among older workers was a bigger driver.
Either way, it’s interesting how the narrative has developed in the US versus the UK.
While older workers certainly left the workforce at an increased pace in the US too, the bigger spin was “Covid made me reevaluate my career and switch up” rather than the “Covid made me realise life is too short for more work so I quit” pieces that I’ve read many times in UK coverage.
A political take could be even our stretched welfare state better supports quitters than North America’s. There, poor, unhappy, and/or underpaid workers maybe have to job hop rather than drop out. Many of those who do want to quit can’t afford to – not without a generous state at their back.
A seductive theory, but there are plenty of ways to push back. Not least that many over-50s in the UK who did quit work early due to Covid now seem to be much poorer as a result.
Game of Life
I’ve a hunch that a deep dive into the statistics might reveal the bigger difference lies in the kinds of stories our two countries prefer to tell to and about ourselves.
Interestingly, some pundits believe US workers have stopped resigning because jobs have actually got better, thanks to a combination of working from home flexibility and the one-time job switches.
From the BBC article again:
Job satisfaction is now higher than it’s been in nearly four decades, according to survey data from the Conference Board, a non-profit think tank that has tracked job satisfaction since 1987.
In a late 2022 survey of nearly 2,000 US workers, more than 60% reported being content with their jobs, and some of the most satisfied are those who quit one job for a better one during the pandemic.
That would be an awfully happy outcome from a pretty terrible period. And a bit of a shame that the reluctant quitters amongst those over-50-year-olds in the UK couldn’t find a happier last hurrah. One that left them better able to retire eventually in more comfort.
But what do you reckon? Did you quit work outside of your goals or expectations over the past few years – or know others closely who did? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Have a great weekend.
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Bank of England raises rates to 15-year high of 5.25% – BBC
UK capital gains tax-payers up by a fifth; new receipts record – This Is Money
Fears of food inflation rise as UK harvests hit by cool, wet summer – Guardian
Surge in ‘ISA millionaires’ to more than 4,000 individuals – This Is Money
Fitch downgrades US debt on debt ceiling drama and governance worries – CNN
There’s [arguably] odd logic behind the timing of the Fitch downgrade – Axios
World’s shrinking AAA debt options still include Singapore, Norway – Yahoo Finance
Seven ‘rust bucket’ cars found in shed after 50 years fetch £200,000 – This Is Money
Why the US economy is so resistant to rate hikes – Axios
Products and services
Shawbrook Bank launches new best buy easy-access and ISA accounts – This Is Money
Lenders cut mortgage rates despite latest BoE rate rise [Search result] – FT
Open a SIPP with Interactive Investor and pay no SIPP fee for six months. Terms apply – Interactive Investor
AJ Bell’s new free pension tracing tool: how does it compare? – Which
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Are you paying £850 too much for Premier League TV? – Be Clever With Your Cash
From Bip to Zopa: five credit cards you might not have heard of – Which
English country homes for sale, in pictures – Guardian
Comment and opinion
Seven things deemed surplus to a portfolio [Note: I Bonds are US-only] – Morningstar
The yield curve is still inverted – The Irrelevant Investor
Benjamin Graham versus Zero Hedge – A Wealth of Common Sense
Are younger investors too conservative? – Morningstar
Set your future self up for success [Podcast] – Art of Manliness
Why 72% of retirees are happy – The Retirement Manifesto
How much of the market’s return could you get before index funds? [Research] – SSRN
Naughty corner: Active antics
Trading for a living – We’re Gonna Get Those Bastards
Japan in demand (sort of) – Verdad
Don’t bail on Baillie Gifford’s technology trusts – Motley Fool
Fidelity’s suspension of RIT Capital “a good reason to find another platform” – Trustnet
Corporate demographics: birth, death, and wealth creation [PDF] – Morgan Stanley
Kindle book bargains
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World by Hans Rosling – £0.99 on Kindle
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates – £1.99 on Kindle
Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth – £0.99 on Kindle
Trillions [Inventing the Index Fund] by Robin Wigglesworth – £0.99 on Kindle
What if we just stopped fishing? – BBC
The galaxy in the woods – Bio Graphic [h/t Abnormal Returns]
US asset managers are behind on their own climate goals – Institutional Investor
Red Admiral butterfly population soars thanks to UK’s warm winter – Sky
Robot overlord roundup
Who gains from AI? – Dror Poleg
Neeva: the little search engine that couldn’t – The Verge
Off our beat
The Brexit ‘red tape’ illusion has been exposed by the CE Mark climbdown – Guardian
Product and process – Seth Godin
The UK is the work-from-home capital of Europe. Let’s do it right – Guardian
Atomic accountability – Raptitude
How a once-controversial theory of trauma explains how we make sense of our lives – NY Mag
US Republican’s death rate spiked after Covid vaccines arrived, study finds – NPR
Why do so many new songs sound familiar? – Vox
Happiness is bullshit [Few months old] – Everything is Bullshit
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