This summer, Lindsay Roushdi quit her job as an accountant at a solar company. The work was OK. The company was fine. But the industry was experiencing a bit of upheaval, so she decided it was time to move on.
She talked to a recruiter and, in a matter of hours, secured a list of 45 job opening suited to her qualifications. “I scheduled two interviews the next day. I went to the second interview, and they offered me a job on the spot,” she said.
“There are so many opportunities,” the 24-year-old said. “I never had a feeling that I’d be unemployed.”
Still, even she was surprised by how right she was.
For a lot of people, in a lot of sectors, it’s an excellent time to be looking for a job — so excellent that many, like Roushdi, are willing to jump without knowing where they’ll land.
Whether the reason is a bad boss, low pay, a toxic culture or concern about the company’s future, job seekers have a growing confidence, bolstered by a good labor market.
The U.S. jobless rate is 3.7%, less than half what it was in a decade ago.
More to the point, the number of job openings is now greater than the number of unemployed people looking for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are 7.3 million openings compared to 6.1 million Americans who are officially unemployed.
As the unemployment rate has slowly declined, the share of workers who quit their jobs has steadily risen. It is now nearly twice as high as in 2009, according to the BLS. In August a decade ago, 1.2% of workers quit their jobs. In contrast, the most recent figure is 2.3%.
Those departures can be costly for companies. In addition to disrupting productivity, they force companies to search for replacements, to interview candidates, to gamble on a new worker — and spend money on training.
It’s a lot more efficient to hold on to good workers, said Andy Decker, senior regional president in Atlanta for the staffing company Robert Half International. “Retention is big. Retention strategy is more important than finding the best talent.”
According to recent survey in Atlanta by Robert Half, 42% of professionals plan to look for a new job this year, he said.
Money commonly figures in an employee’s dissatisfaction, sometimes in unexpected ways, he said. “You would be surprised by the number of people who come in looking for jobs shortly after a promotion. Many times, companies promote people but are paying them less than they would pay an outsider coming in to do that job.”
When well-qualified employees do decide to leave, “it is unusual for them not to receive multiple offers,” Decker said.
But, even in a strong economy, not all industries are thriving and not all job-seekers find work. In technology, finance and retail, there’s less demand for employees than in the past. And jobless rates are higher than average for older workers and minority workers.
Sectors like construction, trucking, home health and hospitality are soaking up workers as fast they arrive.
Of course, demand is a function of the economy’s strength. The current economic expansion has set a record for longevity, which inevitably leads to talk of a downturn. While a recession does not seem imminent, economists say it will come eventually.
That makes it even more important for employers to make sure their companies are good places to work, said Wendy Stewart, Atlanta market president for the Bank of America.
Employee satisfaction is a crucial part of a smart business strategy, said Stewart.
When a recession comes, she said, “we want to retain our employees, our teammates, and we want to be hiring the best and the brightest people out there.”
The bank, which employs 5,200 people in Atlanta, recently decided to raise the entry-level pay from $17.50 to $20 an hour in 2020. The company offers help with child care, tuition and adoption expenses, as well as other benefits, she said.
Still, there are many reasons people leave jobs. Sometimes, employees quit because they don’t see promising careers in the company. Sometimes, it’s because of a dearth of training to hone workers’ skills. Or maybe it’s because the company has been slow to replace departing employees, meaning more work is dumped on those who remain.
And sometimes there’s nothing wrong at all.
In mid-August, Craig Lucie, 38, left a high-profile job as a reporter and anchor for WSB-TV, which is owned by Cox Enterprises, which also owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lucie decided to start his own company.
His venture will produce content — written, video, whatever — for clients to use in marketing, he said.
The time is right, said Lucie, who walked away from a good-paying profession and is betting that he’s making a sound choice.
“I am not worried at all,” he said. “There is a lot work out there.”
Michelle Enjoli Beato, 38, would also like to run her own business. She quit a corporate gig doing digital marketing with “a great company with great benefits” in February to start a business as a “coach,” offering advice to clients on networking and career choices. “I wanted more. I realized that I was no longer passionate about what I was doing.”
She expects to be working for herself soon. “I haven’t even marketed my business and I’m getting clients.”
Kristin Dabson worked at a nonprofit organization for 15 years as a graphic designer. When the organization decided they needed her to work more hours, and to become full-time instead of part-time, she decided to leave.
“It was just scary,” she said. “Then I saw the amount of jobs that were out there.”
Within about a month, she was hired at another, much smaller nonprofit. She’s running marketing, public relations and doing some graphic design, too.
“It’s almost a dream job,” she said. “They asked, ‘How much do you want to work? What do you want to make? What do you want to do?'”