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Portlanders Quitting Their Jobs is a Good Sign for the Economy

Monday, November 17, 2014


Photo credit: iStock

People are quitting their jobs at a record pace, according to new data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The trend reveals people feel less afraid of searching for a better job or starting their own business. 

“It’s a good sign of a healthier job market where employees have options and can quit for better paying jobs,” Christian Kaylor, a work force economist for the Oregon Employment Department and agent for the U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics. “They have options if they don’t like their boss, location, hours, or pay. Two or three years ago they didn’t have options.”

Sean Fredericks and McKinze Cook decided to quit their jobs in Iowa City a few years ago. After some time in the Peace Corps, they moved to Portland and opened Karagi Gogo, one the best new food carts last year according to The Oregonian

“There are always some nerves that go with [quitting your job], but we were confident we would figure it out, and went on with an open-minded attitude,” Fredericks said. “And it worked out.”

This September 2.8 million people quit their jobs, close to a 10 percent increase from the previous month. It is the most quits since April 2008. Employees quitting professional and business services increased the most, followed by health care and social assistance employees and state and local government workers. 

A recent study of over 2,000 U.S. workers asked why they would quit their jobs. Better pay was the leading reason. Opportunity for advancement and high stress were the other two leading motives.

Millennials, who make up 28.5 percent of the workforce in the Portland and Vancouver area, could possibly be affecting the regions rate of job resignations.  Around 90 percent of millennials expect to stay in their jobs for three years or less, according to a 2014 survey. 

“There are more working people in their 20s now than in their 60s,” Kaylor said. “Millennials are the big question mark for the economy.” 

Portland is attracting droves of millennials because of its culture and livability, a Washington Post article pointed out in October. 

Recent employment forecasts for Oregon show increases in employment and job availability.  Kaylor said unemployment rates are close to historical averages, and the increase in job growth will continue to help.

Photo credit: iStock

However, Portlanders are also quitting to create their own business opportunities. Portland was ranked by Forbs as one of the top five cities to create a start up in, because its online community helps entrepreneur become known and reach customers.

“It’s a community and culture that doesn’t exist in Seattle or Bay Area,” Mark Grimes, founder of Nedspace, who has been in the startup business for 20 years, said. “There’s a collaborative sprit [in Portland].”

Grimes also said people can now startup in Portland for a few thousand dollars, instead of millions. 

For many people, startups or their own small business is a way to overcome the stress of a working for someone else. 

“I think there’s a sense you’re in charge of your own destiny, not a cog in the machine or a brick in the wall,” Grimes said. “True, the customers paying you are your new boss, but you get to do something that’s never been done before.”  

Kaylor thinks the rate of people quitting their job will continue to rise, especially as the economy continues to improve. 

This is good news for better wages, something Portland desperately needs, Kaylor said.  

Wages have been stagnant in Oregon and the country for years, Kaylor explained.  But if workers are leaving for better wages, employers are forced to offer competitive salaries.  

“Turnover is expensive, so it’s counterintuitive to keep skilled employees,” Kaylor said. “An increase of people quitting is one of the first indicators of raise in wages. Most economic forecasts are optimistic, and should continue to be.” 


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