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The 'Great Resignation' is likely to continue, as 55% of Americans anticipate looking for a new job

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Job seekers speak with hiring representatives during a job fair at a community center in Beattyville, Kentucky, U.S., on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.
Jon Cherry | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Most Americans expect to look for a new job as the pandemic continues.

Some 55% of people in the workforce, meaning that they're currently working or actively looking for employment, said they are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months, according to Bankrate's August jobseeker survey, published Monday. YouGov Plc conducted the survey of 2,452 adults for Bankrate from July 28 to July 30.

The survey comes at a remarkable time given the experience of the past year and a half, said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. "There have been a lot of epiphanies and reckonings that have occurred during the time with respect with how we're prioritizing ultimately our values, and of course how work fits into that."

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The data confirms trends seen in the labor market recently. While millions remain unemployed, certain industries are struggling to find workers. The unemployment rate fell slightly to 5.4% in July but remains higher than pre-pandemic. Those claiming unemployment insurance benefits fell to a pandemic-low of 2.82 million in the week ending Aug. 14, although it is still elevated.

At the same time, job openings surged to an all-time high of 10.1 million at the end of June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the data lags the unemployment report by one month.)  Separations also edged up to 5.6 million, and the quit rate was 2.7%, just below the April high of 2.8%.  

Why people are looking to leave jobs

There are multiple reasons why Americans are looking to find new work, with flexible working conditions top of mind for job seekers, according to the survey.

Some 56% of those surveyed said that flexibility was their primary reason to look for a new job, topping higher pay and job security. This trend was the same even for the lowest-paid workers — 52% of those making $30,000 or less still put flexibility as their top reason to look for a new job, over higher pay.

Other surveys have shown similar results. Nearly 40% of consumers surveyed by Ally Bank in August said they're considering changing jobs in the next six months, citing remote work, career advancement and flexibility as top desires.

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Of course, this economic backdrop has given workers more leverage to negotiate than they have had in previous years.

"If there ever were a time for someone to be in a position to make a reasonable request of their employers, this would be the time," said Hamrick. On the other side of the coin, he said it's becoming increasingly important for employers to do what they can to not only attract new workers but retain the ones they have.

How to prepare to leave your job

If you are considering leaving your job or looking for a new one in the next year, there are some money basics you can start now to make the process as stress-free as possible, according to Emily Shallal, executive director of consumer strategy and innovation at Ally Bank. 

The first is to make sure you have enough savings in place to continue to pay for essentials — such as rent, utilities and food — while you're still working. This will help if you decide to leave your job before you have other employment secured.

"What is so critically important is not to feel like you're being forced to stay in a career or job because of money," Shallal said. "That fundamentally starts with really understanding what your baseline expenses are."

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Once you've established those costs, you can begin to save an emergency fund to help you cover them during a period of unemployment, according to Shallal. While financial experts generally recommend three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund, you might want to save even more, depending on your field, she said.

Another thing you can do is actively work on paying down any high-interest debt you have, such as credit card debt, to lighten your financial burdens during a period of unemployment, Shallal said. This includes strategizing repayment and looking to refinance your debt to lower your interest rate.

If you aren't able to save as much as you'd like, or find yourself unemployed for longer than you anticipated, you could also consider taking on part-time or gig work to offset your costs during your job search, Shallal said. This may also be a way to pay off debt faster and otherwise shore up your budget.

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