Illinois unemployment: Why did 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August?

Evelyn Holmes Image
Thursday, October 14, 2021
Millions of Americans quit jobs in August
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A whopping 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, even as some industries struggle to find people to work.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Government data shows 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, the highest number reported since it started tracking that number in 2000. What is driving what some staffing experts call "the great reassessment"?

One woman, who asked not to be identified, is one of Chicago's unemployed and plans to stay that way for now, despite "help wanted" signs almost everywhere.

"They will say we're not hiring, but there's a sign in the window," she said.

After losing her position at a construction company at the start of the pandemic, the woman said a $15 an hour minimum wage job won't be enough to make ends meet.

"You have rent, mortgage, storage fees, you got to eat," she said.

The 48-year-old Chicagoan is surviving off her small savings and weekly unemployment benefits, while they last.

Some small business owners classify her in the group of would-be hires who are not aggressively looking to return to the workplace.

Norman Bolden, who owns Norman's Bistro in Kenwood, said his restaurant isn't operating at regular hours because he's short staffed. He's found offering incentives attracts quality workers, not just someone looking for a paycheck, which is important in the hospitality industry.

Staffing expert Joyce Johnson said the job market is changing, as both employers and employees struggle with what she calls "the great reassessment." The cost of overhead, commuting and childcare remain issues for both groups.

"There's not a lot of available who are applying," she said. "We're also seeing people want to work remotely, and at home."

The latest available data shows Illinois had a 7% unemployment rate in August, which is 1.8% higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.2% in the same period. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, 435,000 people were unemployed in the state.

The woman we spoke to said she feels she has few prospects, and therefore has only one choice.

"Move from Chicago, and move away for a better life," she said.