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More Workers Are Quitting Amid Tight Labor Market

Seeking higher pay leads the list of motivations for workers age 55+

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In the current tight labor market, it’s tempting to dream of greener pastures. As a result, the share of workers who quit their jobs in May rose to 2.4 percent, the highest rate since April 2001, presumably because of expanding opportunities. 

Among workers age 55 and up, 44 percent say the most likely reason they would quit their current job is to accept one that pays more, according to a new survey. The poll of more than 2,800 office workers in 28 U.S. cities was conducted on behalf of staffing service OfficeTeam, a Robert Half company. 

Getting a raise isn’t their only motivation. Fourteen percent say they’d be most inclined to leave because they don’t feel appreciated, the same share that cited being bored or unchallenged at work. Smaller numbers cited desires for a shorter commute, a better boss, a more suitable company culture or a chance to work for an employer with a higher purpose or stronger mission. 

Quitting to seek more pay may not always be a smart move for older workers, OfficeTeam District President Brandi Britton said in an email.

“If you like everything else about your current employer and another company is just offering more money, you might want to see if your manager is willing to discuss a salary increase before making up your mind,” she said. “If you’re nearing retirement, you should consider how many more years you plan to work and whether you’ll lose out on vesting of retirement accounts or other benefits when leaving.”

Older workers may need to handle change differently than younger workers, Britton said. If they are longtime employees with extensive responsibilities, “an employer may appreciate you giving more than two weeks’ notice so there’s sufficient time to train a replacement and tie up loose ends,” she said.

Britton said exiting gracefully may be crucial because potential employers will focus on what long-standing workers did in their prior jobs. 

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