A new survey asks: Where are the workers and what do they want?

Jul 15, 2022

By Kim Palmer for Crain’s Cleveland Business

More than 400,000 people in Northeast Ohio quit a job in the past year, and more than 330,000 said that in the next 12 months they plan to look for a new job, according to a survey that found the pandemic has driven many to reconsider what they want when it comes to work.

The “Where Are the Workers?” report from the Fund for Our Economic Future surveyed both employers and nearly 5,000 working-age adults across 11 counties and then extrapolated that data to highlight the trends affecting about 2.9 million Northeast Ohio workers. (Available data on the report’s website focuses on employee responses.)

One of the main takeaways from this comprehensive dive into emerging workforce trends — including how people feel about work and what is important to them — is that the pandemic had a broad effect on life and work priorities, said Fund president Bethia Burke.

“What we’re seeing in the results is that there is a sizable number of people who have shifted their perspective about what matters, and it is showing up in the choices they are making,” she said.

The region’s Great Resignation meant there were an estimated 95,000 fewer people employed in Northeast Ohio in 2021 than in 2019. There are roughly 340,000 working-age adults not working and not looking for work, and therefore not included in unemployment numbers.

About one-third of those adults, Burke said, could be encouraged to return, if the pay was good, if they could work from home or if they could find a good fit for their life.

She said more than half of those surveyed quit their job because of a negative work environment, low pay, transitional issues (such as the need for parental leave) or scheduling conflicts. About half did not have another job lined up when they quit.

Of the workers looking to leave their job, 60% want a different position, and slightly more than half (51.6%) said they plan to look in a different industry. A full 84% of those looking to make some sort of job change were very to somewhat confident they could find a job with commensurate income and benefits.

“These last two years are such a shock to the system that it helps us to just stop for a second and reflect on that shock in a way that might highlight and emphasize those trends,” Burke said. “The implications that are emerging about what is ahead in the immediate future for employers (show that) workers are concerned with compensation, culture and connection.”

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