‘Take this job and shove it.’ Kentuckians are quitting their jobs at highest rate in US


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Kentucky workers are taking a cue from country crooner Johnny Paycheck: They’re telling their employers to “take this job and shove it.” 

And they’re doing so at a rate higher than any other state in the country.

In the month of August, 84,000 Kentuckians quit their jobs — a 26,000-person increase from the number of people who quit in July, according to the “State Job Openings and Labor Turnover” report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With the mass exodus of workers in Kentucky, the commonwealth has the highest quit rate in the nation — or the total number of workers who quit during an entire month as a percent of total employment.

In Kentucky, the quit rate was 4.5% as of August — a 1.4% increase from the month prior, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The states with the next-highest quit rates were Georgia and Idaho, with rates of 4.2% and 4.1%, respectively.

But there is a glimmer of hope for the commonwealth: 103,000 Kentuckians were hired in August 2021, with a hire rate of 5.5% — the fifth-highest of any state, and 1.2% higher than the national average.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during a press conference Monday that “our challenges in the labor market are complex” but “there’s some really good things going on right now.”

“I think people ought to feel more hope than concern, but knowing that even at a time of excitement there are challenges out there,” Beshear said. “Now, with all the job openings and the rest, it’s also a wonderful time to move to Kentucky to have more opportunities here, and we’ll really starting to see that.”

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Why is there a worker shortage now?

Kelly Hannah, the market director for staffing firm Robert Half‘s Louisville operations, told The Courier Journal that part of the reason the quit rate is so high is that, with a workforce shortage, individuals have a higher chance of getting hired for new jobs as companies do not have as large of a job candidate pool.

“If you wanted to dive into a different career, or dip your toe into the water of a different industry, it seems like now is the time because so many people are hiring, and they’re willing to take a chance on people who might not fit their background perfectly,” Hannah said. 

“There’s just a ton of movement in the marketplace.”

Certainly, Kentucky is not alone in seeing so many people leave their jobs. In August, 4.3 million people across the country quit amid a wave that is being called “The Great Resignation.” The quit rates, and the number of quits, increased month-over-month in 14 states, including Kentucky.

Why are so many people quitting their jobs?

The nationwide quit rate is 2.9% of the workforce — or the highest percentage ever reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey series. 

National workforce experts have said people are leaving their jobs due to their demands for higher pay, better employment conditions and critical support in their daily lives.

“There is no ‘labor shortage.’ There’s a child care shortage, a living-wage shortage, a hazard pay shortage, a paid sick leave shortage, and a healthcare shortage,” Robert Reich, a University of California, Berkeley, professor of public policy and former U.S. Labor secretary, wrote on Twitter this month. “Until these shortages are remedied, Americans won’t return to work anytime soon.”

Job openings, or the number of jobs available, did decline in Kentucky in August from the month prior, from 170,000 to 167,000. But the Bluegrass State does have the second-highest opening rate, or the number of openings divided by the sum of opening and total employment, in the country at 8.2%.

And as the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce highlighted in a recent blog post, with there being 85,000 unemployed Kentuckians in August, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there are roughly two open jobs for every unemployed worker in the commonwealth.

Charles Aull, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s senior policy analyst, wrote in a recent blog post that “the high levels of job openings in Kentucky compared to the number of unemployed Kentuckians illustrates how serious the Commonwealth’s workforce challenges really are.”

“We’ve all seen the hiring signs, but now we have new data with which to quantify it,” Aull wrote. “More needs to be done to increase worker availability in Kentucky.”

Great resignation statistics in Kentucky

  • Quit rate in Kentucky as of August 2021: 4.5%
  • Quit rate growth from July 2021 to August 2021 in Kentucky: 1.4%
  • Number of Kentuckians who quit in August 2021: 84,000
  • Opening rate in Kentucky as of August 2021: 8.2%
  • Number of job openings in Kentucky in August 2021: 167,000

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USA TODAY contributed to this report.

Contact Ben Tobin at bjtobin@gannett.com and 502-377-5675 or follow on Twitter @Ben__Tobin.





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