Eight months ago, as unemployment surged to record highs, Juan Gomez did something unusual. He quit his job.
His company's leadership had changed, its vision strayed, and the veteran human resources manager was no longer happy, he said. So after seven years with the Tennessee-based firm, Gomez plunged — voluntarily — into the crowded job market.
"There's nothing worse than to be in a job that you hate or you no longer identify yourself with," said Gomez, 42, who lives in Charlotte and is still looking for work. "… I felt that I just could not be a part of it."
As companies slashed bonuses, stifled wages and pared staff during the recession, the workplace became increasingly difficult for those who kept their jobs. Some took on more responsibility for less money. Others settled for or stayed in jobs they might have otherwise passed on, holding tight to a steady paycheck.
Today, jobs remain scarce. Many unhappy workers still feel stranded, and the downturn continues to pummel weary employees. But as small signs of economic hope emerge, more are beginning to jump ship — or at least consider it — for better opportunities, workers, employers and national experts say.
That could have far-reaching implications for employers, many of which can't yet afford raises and retention bonuses, from increased training costs to depleted productivity and morale.
More than 790,000 workers in the South quit their jobs in June, up 12 percent from the year before, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was the highest since December 2008, though it's still far below pre-recession levels.
Quits in June made up 49 percent of total separations, up from 47 percent the year before. By comparison, the federal data show about 1 million hires in the South in June — up from the year before, but down 38 percent from the start of the recession. In June, the number of job openings in the South was down about 20 percent since the recession began.
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