The Department of Labor said Friday that a record 4.4 million people walked away from their jobs in September.
That was up from 4.3 million in August. And that was up from about 4 million in July.
This is what we call a trend.
Most of the reactions that I see to these numbers are either of the “nobody wants to work” variety, or else the “macroeconomic hiccup; don’t worry, things will return to normal” variety.
But as I wrote for Inc.com over the weekend, I don’t really like either explanation.
The first puts a misplaced moral assessment on the whole thing (ignoring the free market), and the second strips people of agency; suggesting they’re just flotsam and jetsam on a sea of financial forces, as opposed to people making their own choices.
We can do better.
Tangential but related: Let me tell you about a formative experience of mine, when I violated an important rule: DROOM, which stands for, “don’t run out of money.”
I was a third year law student with just a few months until graduation. But, I’d burned through my savings, spent the whole $8,500 a year I had to live on (thanks to federal Stafford loans), and maxed out my credit cards—just shy of the proverbial finish line.
I still had three months of rent until graduation, plus cheap food to pay for (thank you, Subway $1.99 round sandwiches of the late 1990s), and the occasional 99-cent draft beer at the bar just off campus.
(A young man has to have a social life.)
This ate me up emotionally, as I tried to figure out how to land the then-monumental figure of maybe $500 to see me through. I assumed I’d be working again in a few months, but in the short term, I just didn’t have the cash.
Eventually, I swallowed my pride and asked my dad for a loan. I will never forget how it felt to see him take out his checkbook and give me $1,000 (he wrote a check! I’m dating myself!), which was intentionally twice what I had asked for, and which gave me enough to get through the rest of the semester.
It was a powerful moment. It wasn’t the biggest thing he ever did for me, not by a long shot. But, I’ve held on the way it felt, and I’m grateful for the experience—humbling as it was at the time—because it helped me develop empathy.
And, it made me appreciate personal cash flow.
OK, back to the Department of Labor and all of that. Because I think there’s a simple change that some businesses could make that would enable some them to skate free of the Great Resignation.
A recent survey from PwC suggests that 42 percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck. Some of them run into cash flow issues.
Our current “walk away” has primarily taken place among lower-wage workers—especially those working in customer-facing jobs like retail, travel, and restaurants—the kind of people for whom a relatively small amount of money can have a relatively large impact.
They work the hours, they’re owed the money, but their employer holds onto it for 10 or 14 days. In the meantime, they have bills to pay. So, hear me out here: It’s 2021; why not just pay employees every day, instead of making them wait?
"Everybody typically thinks it's just for people making $8 an hour," Jeanniey Walden, chief marketing officer at DailyPay, told me, after I came up this this idea and started exploring it only to realize that there’s a whole industry associated with it.
DailyPay, one of a few financial technology companies that enables employees to control when they get paid, says its data shows that 15 percent of salaried workers whose employers sign up for their platform wind up using it.
I don’t mean to make this sound like an advertisement for DailyPay or its competitors, but I really don’t see any downside. The cost is negligible; a few dollars per pay advance, and I really do think it could be life-changing for some workers.
A lot of us are living a lot closer to the edge than some people think. Maybe this absurdly simple adjustment could help.
7 other things worth your time
Republican congressional candidates currently hold their largest lead in midterm election vote preferences in ABC News/Washington Post polls dating back 40 years, underscoring profound challenges for Democrats hoping to retain their slim majorities in Congress next year. (ABC News)
A federal appeals court in New Orleans has halted the Biden administration’s vaccine or testing requirement for private businesses, delivering another political setback to one of the White House’s signature public health policies. (WashPost)
Republican Jack Ciattarelli finally conceded his narrow loss to Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday, 10 days after the polls closed. (NY Post)
'Stretched too thin': With staff 'exhausted,' schools cancel class or return to remote learning.
Out of stock: Spain's nightlife faces alcohol shortages. (France24)
31 archival pics from National Geographic that capture the beauty of our world. (NatGeo)
Despite setting a world record, runner Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins was unhappy that she didn't run the 100m dash in less than a minute (at age 105). (The Guardian)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. I wrote about part of this for Inc.com. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.
Here’s my take from my neighborhood. During the pandemic lockdown people really understood what it’s like to live without income. Some of us had savings enough to get by, some had friends and family who would drop by donations. But I’d rather call this the “Great WAKE up call”, rather than the “Great Resignation”.
The folks I talked with began selling their stuff over the internet: EBay, Etsy, Marketplace, etc. Some did surveys all day and got paid for it while taking care of their children and neighbors children. Some exploited their own talents: tie dye clothes, sewing and knitting/crocheting extravaganzas with hats, gloves, blankets, etc. some helped others in the neighborhood by taking care of lawns, shoveling snow, raking leaves, and gardening. Some just did all kinds of work in trade for something the neighbor could supply. The creativity was amazing!! So after this ,who’d want to go back to customer service jobs where people and supervisors are mean to you, while you only get paid minimum wage? You suddenly know your worth! And that you can survive with your own ingenuity.
I know this probably isn’t everywhere, but we’re not the only country going through this. So maybe the Great Time Out is now the Great Wake up call.
I don’t like my job/I’m not paid enough so I will quit. “Take this job and shove it!” I don’t understand how that really works.
Just so I am clear, people that already make less than they need would be willing to reduce that even more by paying a few dollars (meaning more than one) per day to get paid every day.
I lived my whole life on the system of receiving a check a week after the two week pay period. That’s roughly 18 days after the first day of the pay period. I also received a check after I left the job. All that until I went on monthly pay which was a check the 15th of each month, two weeks behind and two weeks ahead. I loved that but heard some complain.
When it comes to finances I’m like the ex-smoker: I was once poor as hell, and married, and with a kid. I intimately understand. You do what you have to do and manage. Thank goodness there were no payday loans back then in the “olden days.” You simply had to make things work, make choices and give up many things. It was clearly motivational as I worked my butt off to improve my lot in life.
While I have sympathy for people at some point you have to figure out how to manage the situation, the one you were clearly aware of, when you went in.
As for so many people quitting their jobs, I hope they can afford to do so. The old adage of finding a new job before you quit the one you have is fairly timeless, unless you are independently wealthy.
Life is tough. Kids are born to struggle. That’s how we are motivated, learn and grow. If you don’t like your situation do what is necessary to improve your lot in life but don’t expect someone else to do it for you.