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Employment

The Great Resignation? Record numbers of workers are switching jobs but vacancies rise again

ONS figures show almost one million workers switched jobs over the summer – while vacancies increased to 1.2 million.

Brits are leaving their jobs in record numbers as a phenomenon dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’ hits the UK.

Job-to-job moves totalled 979,000 between July and September, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

ONS statisticians said it was largely driven by resignations rather than dismissals, backing up polling that shows workers are feeling more empowered than ever to change jobs.

The ‘Great Resignation’ was first seen in the US over the summer, with the phrase credited to business and management professor Anthony Klotz.

A recent UK poll found almost a quarter of workers say they are actively planning to find a new role. Almost seven in 10 employees said they felt confident about moving to a new role in the next few months, with only 16 per cent describing themselves as “worried” about trying to get a new job, according to a survey from recruitment firm Randstad UK.

Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said employees are “getting more power in the workplace”, with firms finding it hard to recruit and “having to try really hard to attract people and keep people.”

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Some of the people switching jobs will have left after being made redundant rather than resigning and analysis of the new ONS labour market figures by the Resolution Foundation estimates seven in eight recently furloughed workers have found work elsewhere.

But the latest ONS data as of September – before furlough ended – shows only a slight increase in redundancies.

Instead, many people are simply choosing to leave their jobs, with resignations up by 60 per cent.

The number of vacancies – already at a record 1.1 million – has increased again. Early figures show almost 1.2 million vacancies in October, the ONS said.

Wilson added: “We’ve never seen jobs being filled at a faster rate than now, with three quarters of a million people starting a new job every month since Covid restrictions were eased.

“Yet despite this we’re seeing labour shortages across all parts of the economy and a tighter jobs market than at any time in at least 50 years.”

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The ONS found the number of “economically inactive” people – those not actively looking for work – who stated that they wanted a job increased in the early stages of the pandemic but has fallen since to a record low.

Many older workers who lost their jobs during Covid are simply quitting work for good, while disabled people and parents remain locked out from the labour market. 

“We’ve nearly a million workers now missing from the labour market, and their absence is now holding back our recovery and adding to inflation,” said Wilson. 

“We’re still doing nowhere near enough to help get people back into work, particularly for older workers, disabled people and parents.”

Reacting to the latest figures on vacancy rates, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said the country is “heading towards a labour shortage crisis that threatens yet more dry pumps and sparse shelves”.

There is now a record low of 1.3 people per vacancy.

“Part of the problems we face is that, according to the IES, there are nearly a million fewer people in paid employment than at the start of the crisis,” he added. “This is driven by a worrying trend of people moving out of work and into economic inactivity.

“There are also signs that older workers are disproportionately leaving the labour market. Half of the fall in employment comes from people aged over 50 while long-term unemployment among older people continues to grow.”

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