FALL RIVER — For local employers, the end of the big quit can’t come soon enough.
Because while the national unemployment rate fell to 3.9% in December, the so-called quit rate for workers voluntarily quitting their jobs hit a record 4.5 million in November, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States.
The term big quit has come to represent the phenomenon of workers quitting their jobs to take advantage of a labor market where job offers outnumber those ostensibly looking for work.
The fact that a growing number of people have left their jobs and do not seem particularly eager to join the American labor market is causing consternation among business owners and those who represent the interests of those owners.
“It’s terrible,” said Mike O’Sullivan, co-CEO of One SouthCoast Chamber with offices in Fall River and New Bedford.
“I wonder if they’re not working how they manage to pay their bills,” said O’Sullivan, who manages the Fall River office of the 1,600-member chamber of commerce.
“The COVID logic no longer applies,” he added, referring to workers who may have previously stopped going to work for fear of contracting COVID-19.
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O’Sullivan says that during his travels in the area, he still sees restaurants that have reduced the number of days they are open to just three or four a week due to an inability to find enough employees.
“Lighthouse year” for the local employment agency
Eileen Wheeler Sheehan, who since 1989 has owned and operated recruitment agency ABLE Associates in Fall River, says she has seen an ongoing trend of workers leaving and eventually re-entering the workforce as they reconsider what they want to do for a living.
The year 2021, Wheeler Sheehan said, “has been a banner year for (job) recruiters.”
But she says the Great Resignation is hurting her clients who are desperate for reliable, long-term workers.
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Wheeler Sheehan says it’s not just entry-level unskilled workers who are leaving minimum wage jobs. She says some mid-level managers and other experienced employees left their jobs for career-oriented personal reasons.
“There are so many jobs out there that in their minds they can choose,” she said.
The result, Wheeler Sheehan said, is that many businesses and small businesses are scrambling to attract new workers.
“The confidence level of people here (looking for a job) is amazing,” she said. “They’ll deny us or they’ll ghost us.”
Ghosting refers to a person who stays on the job with a new employer for a short time, sometimes even a few days, and then leaves without notice to take another job.
Wheeler Sheehan said this kind of lack of commitment puts additional financial pressure on companies investing time and money to train new workers.
Some of the hardest hit sectors, she said, include hospitals and health care, manufacturing and those that require drivers.
And Wheeler Sheehan says it’s not just CDL-licensed truckers who are in short supply: “Drivers at all levels are in high demand,” she said.
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Local, state and national unemployment numbers continue to fall
The national unemployment rate in December fell to 3.9% from 4.2% in November, according to the US Department of Labor.
Fall River’s unemployment rate in November was 7.4% compared to 8% in October, according to the state’s Unemployed Assistance Department; the statewide unemployment rate for Massachusetts was 5.4% in November.
Employee incentives don’t always work
Towards the end of 2021, James Karam, president and chief executive of Fall River-based property development company First Bristol Corporation, said he needed to hire 40 to 50 entry-level workers for his eight hotels, shopping centers and office buildings.
And although he now needs half that number, Karam says that’s only because it’s low season for the hospitality industry.
By March 1, he said, “we will be looking for more workers.”
Karam in 2021 proposed an employee incentive program, where an employee who referred a new worker who stayed on the job for at least 90 days and the new worker would receive an additional $300.
But he said even the incentive for the extra money wasn’t enough to make a big difference.
“It didn’t really succeed. It didn’t generate new workers,” he said.
Karam said based on their work experience, he paid hotel workers between $17 and $20 an hour. These workers, he added, whether they are housekeeping workers or restaurant workers, are also allowed to collect tips.
And he said there was still a shortage of entry-level female workers in the ranks of the hospitality industry, due at least in part to an increase in the cost of childcare.
“It’s a national problem,” Karam said.
Charles Winokoor can be contacted at email@example.com. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today.