- A record 5.6% of restaurant workers quit their jobs in April.
- Analysts say this indicates that workers are confident they can find other jobs easily.
- The restaurant industry has a record 1.34 million job openings.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Restaurant workers quit at record levels in April, and it’s another sign that employers are going to have to work harder to attract and retain workers.
The quit rate, which refers to the percentage of people who voluntarily leave their jobs over the period, reached 5.6% in April for the food service and accommodations sector. That number is an all-time high for the industry, according to Gordon Haskett Research Advisors, and it was more than twice the rate of the economy as a whole, not counting farming jobs.
The high quit rate is an “indication that restaurant sector employees are leaving their jobs to pursue higher wage rate opportunities – in both other sectors and other restaurant concepts,” the analysts said in a report.
The quit rate is “generally viewed as a measure of an employee’s confidence in finding a new job and perception of job availability,” Gordon Haskett analysts say, and workers have good reason to feel this confidence. The sector also saw a record high of 1.34 million job openings in April, an increase of 350,000 over March numbers. Total nonfarm openings abound, with a record 9.3 million openings in April, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Restaurants and stores are looking to staff up and return to normal as COVID-19 restrictions lift and the country slowly reopens. Hiring has been difficult for many companies, which have reported a lack of candidates for open positions. Many businesses are offering perks, bonuses, and benefits to new employees just to get them in for interviews, while some like Chipotle are raising wages in the hopes of finding workers.
But retailers and restaurants are also struggling to retain workers who want to leave for new opportunities. That’s making the sector’s labor crunch even worse.
Some workers are taking these conditions as an opportunity to leave retail and restaurant jobs to get away from low pay and difficult customers, and a growing number of openings in the labor market is making it easier to transition to new careers.
One Starbucks worker in Atlanta told Insider that she left for a job with better pay and benefits. The final straw for leaving her job of two years, she said, was realizing how her pay compared to the increasingly pricey drinks Starbucks sells.
Some workers who were furloughed or laid off early in the pandemic may never return to fast food and customer service work. The past year has exposed the massive demands put on retail workers, often for relatively low pay and few benefits, even as they were called heroes and essential workers. Tasked with enforcing mask mandates and interacting with customers during the height of a pandemic, abuse, harassment, and assault were not uncommon. A Service Employees International Union survey of 4,187 McDonald’s workers in the summer of 2020 found that nearly half of respondents said that they had been physically or verbally assaulted.
In place of customer-facing retail jobs, some workers are turning to warehouse employment with companies like Amazon, even as those jobs make headlines for poor conditions. The e-commerce giant has hired about 2,800 people a day since July, mostly in warehouse roles. Others are “rage quitting” without another job lined up at all, fed up with low pay and poor treatment from customers.
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