Will people rejoin the workforce? How many workers will quit this year? Survey of 5,000 Northeast Ohioans offers clues

most people WATW
Data from a recent survey shows more people who aren’t employed aren’t looking for a new job.The Fund For Our Economic Future

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Despite the all the turnover during the “Great Resignation,” 1-in-5 workers in the Northeast Ohio are still thinking of quitting in the next year.

Some workers aren’t happy about being back in the office full time, and many others still face barriers to gainful employment, despite what’s been called a pro-worker job market.

These insights, and many more, were found in a survey of 4,987 working age adults across 11 counties in Northeast Ohio, from Cleveland outward to Lorain, Youngstown and Canton.

Thanks to Where Are the Workers, a multi-phase project led by the Fund for Our Economic Future, the Greater Cleveland now has a massive amount of data to try and answer that question and look deeper at the current labor shortage.

It is too much data to understand all at once, said Bethia Burke, president of the Fund. The preliminary findings alone filled 160 pages. But what is clear is worker sentiments have permanently shifted.

“The broad environmental events of the last couple of years have influenced and will continue to influence a generation of workers and the way they make choices about work,” Burke said.

“This is a point in time (for workers) where there’s an opportunity to challenge how workplaces are structured and who they work for.”

Quitting has been, and will continue to be, common

For every five workers currently employed, one of them plans to quit in the next 12 months. And 2-in-5 said they’ll look for a new job.

A high number of workers plan to leave even though 17.3% of them told surveyors they quit a previous job in the last 12 months.

Burke said the data shows there’s still a sustained movement of people.

“I was surprised that there were still enough people left who haven’t moved who would be interested in a change,” she said.

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Data from a survey showed many workers, about one in five, plan to quit in the next 12 months.The Fund For Our Economic Future

Workers also clearly feel they have choices, judging by their answers to the survey.

Most of the people planning to quit, about eight out of every 10, plan to find another job.

Of the people looking for a new job, 83.8% are confident they can find a job with similar income and benefits.

Of the people who quit in the last year and found new jobs, 37.8% of them didn’t have a job lined up before they quit.

More than half of people without jobs aren’t looking for one

If employers want to bring people back into the workforce, or keep the people they have, the glass is half full, or half empty, depending on how they look at it.

Of all the people surveyed who were not employed, which excludes retirees, 54% were not looking for work.

If you ask the people planning to quit, 55.8% say their employer could do something to encourage them to stay.

And according to the survey, 43.8% of part-time workers would prefer full-time work.

Burke said these questions and others about flexibility, benefits and wanting meaningful work, show there are things employers can do to keep people.

“Those companies that are ready and willing to listen to the workforce have the opportunity to be competitive and attract and retain this kind of talent,” Burke said.

Money talks WATW
The Where Are the Workers survey showed that most workers feel good wages are important.The Fund For Our Economic Future

Money does talk, with 81% of working-age adults saying a good wage was very important and 17% saying it was somewhat important, leaving only 3% of people who didn’t say wages were important to their decision.

But meaningful work (92%), flexible hours (90%), paid time off (88%) and advancement (83%) were all rated as important by people surveyed.

Not a workers’ market for everyone

While the survey, national data and news headlines all point toward a great job market for workers, it doesn’t ring true for a sizable portion of the people surveyed.

Just under 1-in-5 adults (19.8%) said it has been difficult to find or keep employment in the past 12 months. And those barriers aren’t spread equally.

People who are Black or multiracial, have children under 5 or between 18 and 24 years-old were more likely to say finding employment was difficult, each group answering so over 29% of the time.

Some of the top barriers cited were health issues, transportation issues and pay being too low to support a family.

Of all the not employed people not looking for a job, only 7.4% said they were choosing not to work. Others were stay at home parents, had disabilities that prevented them from working or had health issues.

Learn more

For anyone interested in the Where Are the Workers project, A web seminar that’s open to the public will be held at 12:30 p.m. on June 8. The Fund will also release blog posts periodically digging deeper into the survey results. People can find updates at

Read more about it from

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Some of these barriers may be lack of communication between employers and potential employees, or long standing stigmas, Burke said.

If someone with a criminal record has been shut out of employment for years, they won’t feel welcomed into a workplace just because the job market has changed, Burke said.

In other cases, Burke said employers are drug testing but not disqualifying people for marijuana use. But, not knowing that, a recreational or medicinal user might shy away from that job opening, she said.

Burke said employers have changed a lot of practices, but it will take time to communicate that to potential employees.

The data on barriers is also something the Fund and partners plan to dig deeper into. An answer like “pay being too low to support a family” is something Burke said needs a much deeper look.

How many work from home; how many want to?

Just 56.2% of workers surveyed said they worked fully from an office or workplace, but only 36.7% of workers said they want to be in the workplace full-time, and 45.9% said they want to work fully or mostly from home.

According to the survey, 26.5% work fully or mostly from home, although 40.7% of those workers did so before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burke said it’s important for employers to have conversations with their workers to find out what is driving their wants, including working from home.

In the employer roundtables the Fund held, companies recognized that traditionally salaried workers had more flexibility than hourly workers, Burke said.

Burke said employers should drill down on what employees are asking for when they say they want to work remote. Is it the skipped commute, the ability to be a caretaker for children or aging parents? Or is it the ability for workers to be introverted or have better work-life balance?

The most actionable takeaway from the data, Burke said, is employers need to ask employees more questions.

“Ask workers what matters to them,” Burke said. “Ask people who work for you now what mattes to them. Ask follow up questions.”

What’s next for Where Are the Workers?

Even though there’s tons of data now available, the working-age adult survey is still in its first stages.

Burke said there will be months of parsing down data and gleaning more insights. The size of the survey allows for deeper analysis than national data could tell civic leaders about the region.

The project already included surveys of 750 employers in the region and roundtables with them. The Fund will do more roundtables with working age adults to work on issues and solutions found in the survey.

The Fund is working with Team NEO, ConxusNEO, PolicyBridge and the Summit & Medina Workforce Area Council of Governments on the project, which has a multi-pronged approach.

Burke said they’re working on sharing the complete dataset, so that anyone can start digging through it. And the Fund plans to create a website to share all of the data in the third quarter of 2022.

The central question of the whole project was finding out where the workers went. Ohio’s labor force, the number of people employed plus thoselooking for jobs, is about 200,000 short of where it was pre-pandemic.

Burke said she isn’t sure how many workers can be recruited back. The pandemic gave many a moment to reevaluate their choices, and some have found much better ways to balance work and life.

“It’s not necessarily bad for people to adjust the balance for their work and life,” Burke said, adding that it does make it hard for people trying to run companies.

She said some companies are seeing the labor shortage as a moment to shift things, others are looking at it as a short-term problem.

“Some places of business that are seeing this moment of time as something they need to get through, as opposed to respond too,” Burke said. “Those are the businesses that are going to lose the talent war, because there’s enough opportunities for people to go somewhere else.”

Read original release here.

McDonnel, Sean. (2022, May 20) Will people rejoin the workforce? How many workers will quit this year? Survey of 5,000 Northeast Ohioans offers clues.  Retrieved from