1 in 3 Americans who switched jobs during the Great Resignation say they did it for better pay

According to a new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, about one in three working Americans has changed jobs in the past two years, and better pay was the most common reason. Even if they didn’t change employers, the survey found that six out of 10 paid workers in the US received a raise, particularly young Americans, college graduates and Democrats.

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  • 38 percent of US adults who are employed say they have changed jobs in the last two years in this most recent survey. That number is similar to an NPR/Marist poll from January 2018, when 32 percent of working Americans had recently changed jobs.
  • About half of the people earning less than $75,000 a year — 46 percent — said they got new jobs. People making $75,000+ a year were 33 percent less likely to say the same thing.
  • Persons under 45 years of age twice as likely as those over 45 to have changed jobs (48 percent vs. 22 percent), and Gen Z and Millennials were the group of Americans most likely to have changed jobs at 52 percent. Meanwhile, just 18 percent of baby boomers changed jobs.

Because younger people are more likely to change jobs than older people, these results are consistent with what might be expected, said Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard University.

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And when it comes to why people have changed jobs, the fact that those who aren’t at the top of the income ladder are likely to have looked for and found a new job is no coincidence.

Job changed for pay site

Graphic by Megan McGrew/PBS NewsHour

Why people get new jobs

  • The top reason People said they switched gigs for the last two years because of better pay. For almost all demographics, better pay takes precedence over other reasons for changing jobs, such as having a job.
  • Almost a quarter of the people who said they switched jobs for better opportunities, while about one in 10 switched because they had moved or lost their job.
  • Other reasons people changed jobs These included a reduction in hours worked or benefits, the option to work remotely, or the option for more flexible hours, but these reasons represented much smaller groups of people.
  • Reason number one was better pay Men changed jobs — at 15 percent — but the main reason for women, at 9 percent, was to find a better opportunity. Only 7 percent of women said they changed jobs because of better pay.
Reason for changing job

Graphic by Megan McGrew/PBS NewsHour

The number of workers changing jobs for better pay reflects the tight labor market, although it’s not a particularly big jump from 2018, Goldin said. It comes as a surprise to her that so few people said they switched jobs because of more flexible hours or the ability to work remotely.

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“I would have expected them to be bigger,” she said.

Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Survey, said that historically, pay and opportunity are the top reasons people change jobs, and she was surprised the survey found almost half of those surveyed had other motivations.

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Economists say the COVID pandemic, its shocks and stressors have prompted Americans – especially millennials – to reconsider their working lives. For some, that means quitting, considering a career change, or moving to other opportunities. Low unemployment and a tight market have supported this trend. However, rate hikes by the Federal Reserve aimed at curbing inflation, including the latest three-quarters-of-a-point hike on Wednesday, are expected to push unemployment back higher.

Who deserves more

  • 61 percent of workers said they had received a raise in the past year, compared to 56 percent of workers in 2018.
  • 63 percent of working men reported a pay increase over the past year compared to 58 percent of employed women.
  • A much higher percentage of Gen Z and Millennials reported salary increases as baby boomers — 70 percent versus 48 percent.
  • people in low-income households They were less likely than higher-income households to get a raise — 55 percent of workers earning less than $75,000 got a raise, but 66 percent of those earning $75,000 or more said the same thing.
  • 68 percent of college graduates said they received a raise, compared with 54 percent of those who didn’t earn a college degree.
  • Political affiliation was not a good predictor by those who have changed jobs. However, the same is not true for raises: 72 percent of Democrats said they had received a raise in the past year, compared to 51 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of independents.
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received raise college website

Graphic by Megan McGrew/PBS NewsHour

The fact that college graduates were more likely to get employment than non-college graduates and much more likely to get a raise may be reflected in the political collapse, Carvalho said. Data shows that Americans with no college degrees are now largely supporting Republican candidates.

received raise party site

Graphic by Megan McGrew/PBS NewsHour

“I think it’s very, very significant that when we look at people who say they support Trump, a majority of them said they didn’t get a raise in the past year. And if we look at the people who supported Joe Biden, nearly three-quarters — more than seven in 10 — said they did,” Carvalho said. While union members and working-class Americans used to make up most of the Democratic base, many now vote for Republicans. That huge gap could explain why Democrats are more positive about the economy than Republicans, Carvalho said, and why Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are cutting spending.

PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist Poll conducted an August 29-September 1 poll that included 1,236 U.S. adults (4.1 percentage point margin of error), 1,151 registered voters (4.3 percentage point margin of error), and 697 adults who worked for pay were interviewed (error rate of 5.5 percentage points); and 261 adult workers who changed jobs (error rate of 9.0 percentage points).

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