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All those people quitting jobs, where are they going?

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A woman works at home on her laptop with her phone to her ear.

As people continue to leave demanding industries, competition is fierce for comfortable, work-from-home jobs. Gianrigo Marletta/AFP via Getty Images

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You may have heard the news that last week’s initial unemployment claims fell to a new pandemic low. But even though layoffs are decreasing, it’s also true that lots of workers are leaving their jobs and lots of employers are still having trouble filling them.

So, where are the workers who are leaving jobs going?

Right now, it is statistically more difficult to become a receptionist than to get into Harvard. That’s according to data from ZipRecruiter, where Julia Pollak is chief economist.

“I have a lot of bad news for job seekers in certain occupations. Some are much more competitive even,” Pollak said.

Some of these jobs are specialized or senior roles, but a lot of them are what Pollak calls pleasant jobs with predictable schedules, such as in customer service or communications — and fields like airport security.

“So, jobs where you have some degree of prestige, perhaps a uniform and a union looking out for your interests,” Pollak said.

The growing interest in jobs that are more stable and offer better pay and benefits makes sense when you compare them to jobs that require similar skills and are begging people to come back — think less predictable or less protected industries like trucking and restaurants.

“If you’re a worker at a restaurant and suddenly the restaurant is short-staffed, it’s going to be that much harder for you to actually manage your shift,” said Daniel Zhao, an economist at Glassdoor.

People are tired, burned out and fed up. And a lot of them are looking for a new work-from-home lifestyle. Glassdoor said searches for remote roles is up more than 350% in the last year. Whether everyone can get one is a different story.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable to think that we’re gonna transition millions of hospitality and food-service workers into [tech] jobs,” said Jesse Rothstein, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Eventually, he said, something’s got to give — whether it’s employers upping pay to attract workers, job growth in some sectors petering out or the end of the virus that’s still very much alive and keeping many people away from public-facing work.

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