The Great Resignation, also known as the Big Quit, is the ongoing trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs, from spring 2021 to the present, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The term Great Resignation was likely coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School of Texas A&M University.
From December 2000 to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the United States resignation rate never surpassed 2.4% of the total workforce. High quit rates indicate worker confidence in the ability to get higher paying jobs, which typically coincides with high economic stability, an abundance of people working, and low unemployment rates. Conversely, during periods of high unemployment, resignation rates tend to decrease as hire rates also decrease. For example, during the Great Recession, the US quit rate decreased from 2.0% to 1.3% as the hire rate fell from 3.7% to 2.8%.
US resignation rates during the COVID-19 pandemic initially followed this pattern. In March and April 2020, a record 13.0 and 9.3 million workers (8.6% and 7.2%) were laid off, and the quit rate subsequently fell to a seven-year low of 1.6%. Much of the layoffs and resignations were driven by women, who disproportionately work in industries that were affected most by the lockdowns, like service industries and childcare.