MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
You've heard about the great resignation or the big quit? Well, some of those people quit for good. Others have simply swapped jobs, and that has created a lot of churn in the economy. To find out how much, NPR teamed up with PBS NewsHour and Marist to survey workers across the U.S. NPR's Stacey Vanek Smith has results.
STACEY VANEK SMITH, BYLINE: It has been an action-packed couple of years for the job market. The NPR/Marist poll found almost 40% of workers have changed jobs in just the last couple of years. That is millions of people quitting and starting new positions every month. Economists have a word for all this churn.
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HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: Dynamism.
VANEK SMITH: Dynamism. Heidi Shierholz is president of the Economic Policy Institute. She says dynamism is turnover, change, advancement, that restless entrepreneurial spirit. And she says it's music to her ears.
SHIERHOLZ: Low dynamism was a theme in the recovery from the Great Recession.
VANEK SMITH: Shierholz says after the economic shock and mass layoffs of 2008, workers got kind of timid and security-oriented, hanging onto jobs, staying put. And now?
SHIERHOLZ: Now, we're, like, so freaking dynamic. People are switching jobs all the time. And that is a good thing. If people are switching jobs, they're very likely taking a job that's a better match for them. The economy runs better. It's also very, very good for workers.
VANEK SMITH: Workers like Debby Perta in Arizona - she is 38, and she'd worked her way up at a bank for almost a decade. But she'd gone about as far at that company as she could go. So she left, hard as it was.
DEBBY PERTA: Very hard - the last day was in tears.
VANEK SMITH: Debby found a new job as branch manager at a bank. It was a big step up in most ways.
Did you get a raise when you changed jobs?
PERTA: I actually did not get a raise when I changed jobs. I actually stayed at the same.
VANEK SMITH: But Debby was excited for her fresh start, along with millions of working Americans. Our poll found most people change jobs for more money or, like Debby, for a better opportunity.
Of course, our newfound dynamism has a dark side. It can be exhausting for workers and employers - constant hiring and training and picking up slack for unfilled jobs. That, in fact, is what happened to Debby. Even though she was hired as branch manager, staffing shortages meant she spent most of her days filling in as a teller.
PERTA: So I'm constantly getting distracted. My one full-time teller, if she called off, like, forget about it. You're really SOL then (laughter). I came in with a master's degree. I come in with experience. And I'm not being utilized to my potential.
VANEK SMITH: Also, pay became an issue. Prices were rising. And to help make ends meet, Debby had to start doing DoorDash deliveries on the weekend. So just six months into one new job, Debby started looking for a new, new job. And, pretty quickly, she got one.
PERTA: I oversee - right now, I have 15 employees. I do get to work hybrid.
VANEK SMITH: Did you get a raise?
PERTA: I did get a raise, so it's good.
VANEK SMITH: Debby is happy. She feels challenged. She's getting paid more. Economist Heidi Shierholz says this is economic dynamism at its best. Still...
SHIERHOLZ: I feel like I'm holding my breath a bit.
VANEK SMITH: Shierholz says if the economy gets worse, all this dynamism could dissolve. Companies could stop hiring, and workers could go back to valuing security over advancement and entrepreneurship - or maybe not, especially in this moment. Debby Perta says she thinks there's been a real mental shift for workers.
PERTA: I've moved from being in the company for almost 8 1/2 years to, in the last 12 months, I've had two jobs. You know, back in my day, that wasn't the norm. You don't job hop. It was bad on your resume, but not anymore. Now, if you see social media like TikToks and things, oh, don't be ashamed to job hop, you know? Know your value. And it's OK to - if you find something better, to, like, move on, right?
VANEK SMITH: For the record, Debby does not have plans to move on. She is happy where she is, at least for now.
Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR News.
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