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Joshua Choper

Research Findings

Work-schedule instability increases turnover among low-wage workers, leading to lost earnings and horizontal mobility

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March 3, 2022

Over the last year, American workers quit their jobs at higher rates than ever before. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 4.5 million people quit in November 2021 – the most ever recorded since the BLS began publishing turnover data in December 2000. While the “Great Resignation” spans across the economy, quit rates were highest in the retail and food service industries, where workers have been resigning in droves since the beginning of last year.

Why are so many workers in retail and food service quitting their jobs? In addition to concerns over their risk of infection from COVID-19, many workers are quitting because they are dissatisfied with their poor working conditions and they hope to find better opportunities elsewhere. In particular, retail and restaurant workers report that frustration with inflexible and unpredictable hours is a primary motivation for quitting.

In a recent study, we investigate how and why unstable schedules might lead retail and food service workers to leave their jobs and assess if workers leaving these jobs are really able to find better opportunities after.

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