The worst of the Great Resignation might be over, but not for small businesses

by | Aug 3, 2022

REAL ECONOMY BLOG | August 03, 2022

The record-high turnover in the job market, known as the Great Resignation, is showing signs of easing, but that may not be the case for small businesses.

If anything, the struggle has only been amplified for firms with fewer than 50 employees. While the overall rate of workers quitting their jobs fell to 2.8% in June from a peak of 3.0% in December, according to government data released on Tuesday, the total number of job quits for small firms spiked by 7.7% in the same period.

Job quits

For large firms with at least 250 employees and midsize firms that have 50 to 249 employees, by contrast, the total number of monthly job quits dropped by 9% and by 4.4% respectively in June from the peak around February on a six-month moving average—which helps to take out the monthly volatility.

Driving this divide are the resources that larger firms can use to woo workers. Smaller firms have found it harder to compete with larger firms as the compensation war continues to escalate, especially when inflation is taking a big bite out of each pay raise.

On top of that, with an economic downturn looming and layoffs picking up as the Federal Reserve continues to increase interest rates, there is less incentive for workers who have joined a larger and more stable firm to begin another job hunt.

At the same time, workers at small firms are seeing their window for a better job with higher pay, likely at a bigger firm, slowly closing. That should prompt those workers to look for new jobs more actively, which would only add to the turnover at small firms.

The other likely reason for the divide is that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases will take a while to spread across the economy. While larger firms have begun to slow hiring in anticipation of an economic downturn, smaller firms have not felt the impact yet as the number of job vacancies from small firms remained elevated in June.

But it is hard to put the blame on many of those small businesses, in part because of the existing high rate of turnover among workers, which essentially constitutes a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

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This article was written by Tuan Nguyen and originally appeared on 2022-08-03.
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