Majority of U.S. Workers Changing Jobs Are Seeing Real Wage Gains – Pew Research Center

by | Jul 28, 2022 | Jobs

Roughly one-in-five workers say they are very or somewhat likely to look for a new job in the next six months, but only about a third of these workers think it would be easy to find one

A ‘Now Hiring’ sign is seen at a job fair on June 23, 2022, in Sunrise, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Amid reports of the Great Resignation, Pew Research Center conducted this study to better understand the experiences of individual workers who switched employers in any given month from January 2019 to March 2022.

Part of the study is based on the analysis of monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) data from January 2019 to March 2022. The CPS is the U.S. government’s official source for monthly estimates of unemployment. About three-quarters of the people interviewed in one month of the CPS are also interviewed in the next month, and about half of the people interviewed in one year are also interviewed in the same month the next year. The analysis exploits these features to study the monthly transitions of individual workers from, say, employment to unemployment, and to examine the changes in their earnings from one year to the next.

Another part of the study is based on a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults conducted by Pew Research Center from June 27 to July 4, 2022, using the Center’s American Trends Panel. The survey encompassed 6,174 adults, including 3,784 employed adults.

The COVID-19 outbreak affected data collection efforts by the U.S. government in its surveys, especially in 2020 and 2021, limiting in-person data collection and affecting the response rate. It is possible that some measures of economic outcomes and how they vary across demographic groups are affected by these changes in data collection.

“Employer switchers” or “job switchers” are workers who were employed in two consecutive months but report having changed employers. The switch may have happened voluntarily or involuntarily. Some of these workers may have been unemployed for up to four weeks in the transition from one job to the next.

“Unemployed” refers to workers who are currently without a job but are actively seeking work. “Not in labor force” refers to workers who are neither employed nor actively looking for work. This group includes those who are retired, as well as workers who intend to return to the labor force sometime in the future.

White, Black and Asian adults include those who report being only one race and who are not Hispanic. Hispanics are of any race. Other racial and ethnic groups are included in all totals but are not shown separately.

“High school graduate” refers to those who have a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a General Education Development (GED) certificate, and those who had completed 12th grade, but their diploma status was unclear (those who had finished 12th grade but not received a diploma are excluded). “Some college” include workers with an associate degree and those who attended college but did not obtain a degree.

“Real earnings” refers to earnings adjusted for inflation.

The Great Resignation of 2021 has continued into 2022, with quit rates reaching levels last seen in the 1970s. Although not all workers who leave a job are working in another job the next month, the majority of those switching employers are seeing it pay off in higher earnings, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. government data.

From April 2021 to March 2022, a period in which quit rates reached post-pandemic highs, the majority of workers switching jobs (60%) saw an increase in their real earnings over the same month the previous year. This happened despite a surge in the rate of inflation that has eroded real earnings for many others. Among workers who remained with the same employer, fewer than half (47%) experienced an increase in real earnings.

Overall, 2.5% of workers – about 4 million – switched jobs on average each month from January to March 2022. This share translates into an annual turnover of 30% of workers – nearly 50 million – if it is assumed that no workers change jobs more than once a year. It is higher than in 2021, when 2.3% of workers switched employers each month, on average. About a third (34%) of workers who left a job from January to March 2022 – either voluntarily or involuntarily – were with a new employer the following month.

When it comes to the earnings of job switchers, the share finding higher pay has …

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