OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – The pandemic has caused seismic changes in the American workplace.  And now, the latest labor statistics show that employees are quitting their jobs in record numbers in the Bay Area and across the nation.

On Tuesday, the Labor Department released data showing that 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs during the month of August. That’s nearly 3% of the entire workforce and is the single highest quitting rate on record.

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“They’ve got a lot of leverage right now,” Eugene Lupario, founder of job placement firm SVS Group, told KPIX 5.

Lupario said with so many businesses desperate to find workers, the employees now hold all the cards.

“It’s frustrating for us to hear somebody say, ‘Nah, I don’t know if I want that job. I might wait for something better,” he said.

According to Lupario, job-seekers are now commanding more money, different work schedules, the ability to work from home—a whole host of benefits never offered before.

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“And so, they are figuring it out and employers are adapting to this ever-changing marketplace,” said Lupario. “And that’s really what’s happening. It’s an evolution that’s taking place that may forever change the way we look at the employer-employee relationship.”

Lower paid workers are also quitting.  They have to weigh the loss of financial assistance if they stay on the job.  Many find that the total of government benefits, from unemployment payments to food stamps to housing subsidies, is worth more than what an employer is willing or even capable of paying.

“We have members whose grandparents started the business and they’re now wondering, can we keep this alive?” said Jessica Hawthorne, Senior Vice President of the California Employers Association. The group represents business owners has warned their members that things aren’t going back to a pre-pandemic normal anytime soon.

“For every person they want to hire, there’s a different reason why they may or may not want to work,” said Hawthorne. “So to quantify it is going to be impossible until we have true 20/20 hindsight—which may never happen.”

Some analysts think the abnormally high number of “quits” in August may be tied to the emergence of the Delta variant.  But it is still part of an ongoing trend.

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It used to be that many people’s sense of self-worth was tied to their work. But now, employment experts say the pandemic has given American workers a chance to reassess their workplace—and whether they want to be there at all.