Almost 40% Americans switched jobs during the last two years, with better pay being the most common reason, according to a new poll from PBS NewsHour, NPR, and the Marist Poll.
Poll details and key findings
For the poll, PBS, NPR, and Marist surveyed 1,236 U.S. adults between Aug. 29 and Sept. 1 about their jobs and pay.
Overall, 57% of Americans say they are currently working for pay. Of this group, 38% said they changed jobs within the past two years—up from 32% who said the same in 2018.
In general, millennial and Gen Z workers were most likely to say that they changed jobs (52%) compared to 22% of Gen X and 18% of baby boomers. Those earning $75,000 or less a year were also more likely to say they changed jobs compared to people earning higher incomes (46% vs. 33%, respectively).
Of those who said they changed jobs, the most commonly cited reason was for better pay (32%). Other reasons included better job opportunities, relocation, losing a job, more flexible hours, and the option to work remotely.
Among working adults, 61% said they received a pay raise in the last year, an increase from 56% who said the same in 2018. Millennial and Gen Z workers (70%) were most likely to report receiving a raise, and those earning $75,000 or more were more likely to report receiving a raise than those with lower incomes (66% vs. 55%, respectively).
In addition, men (63%) and college graduates (68%) were more likely to report receiving a raise compared to women (58%) and individuals without college degrees (54%). Democrats (72%) were also more likely to report a raise compared to Republicans (51%) and Independents (58%).
According to economists, the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as its associated shocks and stressors, likely drove many Americans, particularly millennials, to re-evaluate their work lives. For some people, this meant quitting their job, considering a career change, or moving on to other opportunities.
Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard University, said the number of workers changing jobs for better pay likely reflects a tight labor market, even if the increase from 2018 is not that large.
However, Goldin said it was a surprise to see so few people citing more flexible hours or the ability to work remotely as a reason they changed jobs. "I would have expected those to be larger," she said.
In addition, Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, said that since pay and new opportunities have historically been the top reasons why people change jobs, she was surprised that almost half of respondents cited other reasons.
Currently, low employment and a tight labor market are supporting the trend of people changing jobs more often, but interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve aimed at curbing inflation are expected to cause unemployment to increase once again, PBS reports. (Grabenstein, PBS, 9/22; NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll, 9/22)