“The Great Resignation” has morphed into “The Great Confusion.” Today workers and employers are navigating a bewildering terrain where the match between employees, jobs, and work is constantly changing. Will the “old” prevail, or the “new” win out? That is the question.

Labor Market Trends

The number of jobs has recovered from the Pandemic, which is good news.

The overall labor force participation rate is down. However, it’s down for older workers, while it’s up for younger ones. Older workers are still missing from the labor market. 

Unemployment rates are down, and wage rates are up. Also, unionization activity has been increasing; overall, workers exert more power than they have in recent years.

However, some companies are rooting for labor market conditions to weaken labor’s power. They have been joined by the Federal Reserve Board, which is raising interest rates and engaging in quantitative tightening to increase unemployment and reduce wage increase rates.

Quitting, Quite Quitting, and Anti-Work

One early view of “the great resignation” was that workers were conducting a “general strike.” However, except for older workers, people have returned to work. Yet, many workers are considering quitting their jobs. If they aren’t “quitting,” they’re “quiet quitting.” They aren’t willing to go beyond the basic requirements of the job. 

Making Ends Meet

On the other hand, for some, “the great resignation” turned into “the great regret.” Some of those who resigned discovered they needed additional income and missed the workplace interactions.

Self-employment is up. 

The number of “gig workers” is increasing.

More people are working more than one job to make ends meet.

Work From Anywhere

While work is dispersing, it appears that younger workers need place-based work. We haven’t figured out how to replace the socialization function of “the office.” We don’t know the optimal number of days per week workers must return to their offices to maintain their attachment and engagement.

Dual Labor Markets

While there are those of us who can work from anywhere, there are other “essential workers” who must show up at a place so those who can work from anywhere can enjoy their flexibility. 

Unfortunately, we’ve gone from celebrating our “essential workers” during the height of the Pandemic to demonizing them. Also, while unemployment is down, many “front-line” positions remain unfilled. 

We have dual labor markets. One is place-based, and the other isn’t. 

The Robots are Coming

While all this is happening, technology is replacing the need for workers in some industries. With technological worker displacement, the issue is whether the rate of new jobs will increase at the same speed and pay as the old positions go away.

Buckle Up!

Yes. It’s all so confusing. Today workers and employers are navigating a very perplexing terrain, So don’t look for definitive answers.  

While trying to make sense of these trends, we’ll have to continue to work without the old rules until we find new ones that will work. 

See Our Related Posts and Readings:

Buddhist Economics & The Great Reassessment “Right Livelihood” is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics. E.F. Schumacher’s opening lines of his 1966 essay “Buddhist Economics” provides us with a lens to examine “The Great Reassessment.”

The Re-Enchantment of Work: The Great Resignation, Realignment, And Reassessment Some exited the labor market, including retiring early, negotiated higher pay, left jobs that were deadening before and during the Pandemic, and lost any allure they had for work, even when they didn’t have options

The New Normal We know we’re in a New Normal when our organizational and individual responses that helped us thrive are no longer helping us attain our desired outcomes.

See some other articles of interest:

What if the Office Isn’t the Problem? (April 15, 2022) Curbed The fantasy many employers have of what the office was — the story of why we must come back — is currently running up against reality. The office isn’t the problem — it’s work.

“The Great Resignation” Is a Great Exaggeration (Apri 18, 2022) The Nation Workers are quitting their jobs in record numbers, but it’s not a turning point for labor power.

Bank of America Memo, Revealed: ‘We Hope” Conditions for American Workers Will Get Worse,” (July 29, 2022) The Intercept. The financial behemoth privately fears that regular people have too much leverage.

The Remote Work Revolution Is Already Reshaping America (August 19, 2022) Washington Post The coronavirus pandemic set in motion a shift to remote and hybrid work that is quietly reshaping American economics and demographics.

The Death of the Job (August 24, 2021) What if paid work were no longer the centerpiece of American life?

The Office’s Last Stand (August 28, 2022) NY Times It’s either the end of the era of flexibility around where work takes place — or the beginning of outright rebellion.

After ‘quiet quitting,’ here comes ‘quiet firing’ (September 1, 2002) Washington Post  Some employers avoid providing all but the bare legal minimum to their workers in the hope they will take the hint and quit