Which Americans are leaving their occupations?

The rate at which Americans leave their careers varies by occupation and industry, and has changed over the last several years.

Every year, some fraction of Americans leave their occupations. Government surveys reveal specific rates for nurses, waitresses and other occupations.

The Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey asks participants their main jobs the previous year, their current jobs, and their employment status.

On average, 13% percent of workers changed occupations between 2020 and 2021. Thirteen percent also switched occupations between 2019 and 2020. (This is a different measure than quit rates that capture people who quit a job but stay in an occupation, like a nurse who switches hospitals or a bartender who switches bars.)

Occupations that offer lower wages or require less experience and training underwent the most changes during the past few years. For example, workers who prepare and serve food have had high job rates switching in every year between 2017 and 2021.

In 2021, of the people who reported they were bartenders during the previous year, about 67% still bartended, 9% were not working, and 23% switched occupations. For comparison, 17% of bartenders switched occupations in 2017 and 33% switched in 2020.

In contrast, over the same time period, 93% of nurses remained nurses, 3% switched occupations, and 4% were not working. This is comparable to the rate of physicians and surgeons, where 91% remained physicians or surgeons.

Judicial workers, which includes lawyers, judges, and magistrates, consistently had one of the lowest rates of leaving their occupation, at 5% or lower for each year between 2017 and 2021.

Explore the data by selecting a year.

Sources & Footnotes

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