65% of workers are looking for a new job, and the numbers could get higher

A Now Hiring sign along Middle Country Road in Selden, NY.
Thomas A. Ferrara | Newsday | Getty Images

The share of workers thinking of calling it quits could be higher than expected. Some 65% of employees are looking for a new job right now, according to an August poll of 1,007 full- and part-time U.S. workers conducted by PwC. That's nearly double the 35% of workers who said they were seeking new work in May.

Workers say their top reason for finding a new job is negotiating for a better salary, followed by expanded benefits and more workplace flexibility, such as the ability to work remotely full-time or on a hybrid schedule.

Among 752 executives surveyed in the same report, just 23% believe workers are leaving because they want better benefits.

Women, Black and Hispanic workers seek higher pay

The current labor market may be an opportunity for underpaid and marginalized workers to close pay gaps, the PwC report finds.

Women, 46%, are more likely than men, 34%, to report they're looking for a new job because they want higher pay. When considering race and ethnicity, 82% of Hispanic and 67% of Black workers say they're seeking more pay in a new job compared with 57% of white, non-Hispanic workers.

Bhushan Sethi, PwC's global people and organization co-leader tells CNBC Make It that leaders must consider these factors in both their retention and their hiring practices.

"Our recommendation there is that companies need to get ahead of this and analyze the data," Sethi says. "If they see pay gaps skewed around gender or ethnicity or generation for people performing the same job, that's something they need to address. As you see from the data, it drives more retention risks."

But while data suggests quitters are leveraging higher wages in the job market, the benefits are uneven due to longstanding inequities in pay practices along race and gender lines.

For example, women who recently quit for a new job are seeing above-average wage growth, ADP data shows — 6.4% wage growth for women versus 5.5% for men. But because of the wage gap, women are starting from a lower average hourly wage level of $27.79, compared to $32.61 for men.

Benefits can improve diversity, equity and inclusion

Organizations have a responsibility to uphold transparent and equitable compensation practices, Sethi says. They must also consider the labor market factors that mean women, Black and Hispanic workers make up a disproportionate share of people who are unemployed, underemployed or have been pushed out of the labor force altogether.

Firms should provide benefits to help retain certain demographics of workers, Sethi says, including paid time off or the ability to work from home, which could make the workplace more accommodating to women who've overwhelmingly been pushed out of work during the pandemic due to care responsibilities.

Flexibility will be increasingly important in the coming weeks, Sethi adds, as the Covid-19 delta variant throws school and child-care plans into question.

Leaders should expect new hires to 'negotiate hard'

A majority, 88%, of executives say they're seeing higher turnover than normal.

Some are bracing for even more disruption in the months to come. Neil Dhar, chief clients officer at PwC, says employers in some sectors, including in financial services, generally believe they've hit their peak turnover period.

In other sectors, particularly technology, clients are expressing concern that the share of people quitting could continue to climb based on tightening demand in the job market.

And workers in service jobs throughout leisure and hospitality are driving a nationwide quitting spree throughout the spring and summer, with many moving jobs to land better pay, perks and flexibility. Employers there are saying it's too early to tell what the ongoing attrition patterns will be.

"In talking to all functional leads, at all companies, in all sectors, there's a feeling the employee base right now seems to have quite a bit of power in terms of options in the market," Dhar says. Leaders on a hiring spree "should expect new people to negotiate hard for compensation and perks."

Check out: 'I'd rather bet on myself': Workers are quitting their jobs to put themselves first

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