The Great Resignation: Michigan continues to grapple with ongoing worker shortage

Posted at 12:51 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 18:05:51-04

(WXYZ) — The worker shortage is so bad there’s a new term for it: "The Great Resignation." Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows August set a record: 4 million people quit their jobs. That’s 3 percent of the workforce.


Table 4. Quits Levels and Rates by Industry and Region, Seasonally Adjusted by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

The Great Resignation has been a shock.

"It’s a big uncertainty for sure," said Shannon Sawyer. He's with Prudential Security in Taylor. They’ve had some people quit. They are hiring at their headquarters on Eureka Road off I-75. They held a job fair this week with a disappointing turnout. Four people showed up; there are about 20 openings.

"Tough. Tough pill to swallow," said Sawyer.

Workers clearly have the leverage now in the job market. David Madland is a senior fellow and advisor with the Center for American Progress, an independent non-partisan policy institute.

"There's this long pattern of stagnant wages, and then you add COVID on top of that and people really are reassessing, you know the value of work, they feel like they're working harder and are taking more risks but not necessarily getting the benefits as corporations or many of them are having record profits," said Madland.

Other factors behind The Great Resignation:

- People living on government benefits

- People seeking better pay and benefits

- People wanting to work remotely

- Family pressures

"A lot of people have not come back in the workforce because they don't have enough childcare options, some have not come back into the workforce because they're nervous about their health, others have done a calculation and determined that they're going to leave the workforce permanently, maybe move up a retirement date," said Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Mark Gaffney is on the board of Wayne State University, teaches labor and business, has decades of AFL-CIO and teamsters union leadership experience and is on the Detroit mayor’s workforce board.

"When a worker says to their employer, 'I’d like to talk to you about at least part of the week being remote,' my advice to that employer is, you better listen," said Gaffney.

He says business owners are learning they have to up the ante to avoid the Great Resignation.

What if they say they can't afford higher wages?

"Well, if it’s a restaurant and I’ve noticed a couple of them have done this, reprint that menu, and moderately raise the prices. That’s going to work out for you," said Gaffney.

Raising wages and benefits can improve the economy overall and can pull more workers back in, off the sidelines.

"I don't think anyone really knows ... the good news is, there is a shortage of workers, which is good for the workers, but bad for the businesses; businesses are starting to have to raise wages," said Madland.

Back at Prudential Security, they’re still hiring. And they’re often working overtime to keep the customers happy.

"It’s a 24-hour job," said Sawyer.

The historic rise in quitting may continue for months.