Americans are quitting their jobs at the highest rate since 2006 according to new numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). May 2017 saw just over 3 million people pull their kid’s picture from the cork board and hit the street. This amount of quitting, not seen since 2001, provides a strong indication that American’s are less concerned about the prospect of unemployment and believe, in greater numbers, that they’re likely to find a better gig. That’s a good thing, especially given the dip that corresponded with the Great Recession and the pressure that is now being applied to employers when they consider perks (including paternity leave) in the context of retention and recruiting.
And employers better start taking recruiting seriously. Jobs that are open are staying open for longer. It now takes an HR pro about a month to fill a position. When the economy was in the toilet, willing candidates were passing quitters in the lobby. That is no longer the case. Still, there’s no indication that wages are ticking up along with competition for talent. To the contrary, the competition seems to be (and this is informed speculation based on our reporting on paternity leave) duking it with a benefits package arms race. That is certainly true in the tech sector and may be increasingly true in the financial and legal sectors as well. Skilled labor is, for the moment, a precious thing.
What kind of perks? Well, good healthcare is almostly certainly at the top of the list along with retirement savings accounts, notably matching 401Ks. But there is also a growth in lifestyle perks, such as remote working programs, unlimited vacation programs, time off programs for caregivers, and parental leave offerings. These now run the gamut from year-long hiatuses being offered to parents by perk-forward companies like the wholesale startup Boxed.com to better incentives to stay active and fit offered by myriad companies that see the benefits of a healthier workforce.
The perk math still largely works out in favor of employers. The California Employment Development Department calculates the average cost for six weeks paid parental leave to be roughly $6,400. Having an empty seat or even a seat filled with a noob incapable of contributing substantively on day one can be far more expensive than that. As experts in the field frequently point out, retention is less expensive than training. As retention gets harder, companies will be forced to rise to that occasion.
If nothing else, the numbers are an economic vote of confidence from American workers. Optimism sometimes looks like giving notice.