ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Some call it “The Big Quit.” On Tuesday, lawmakers addressed the workforce shortage via a public hearing: why it’s happening and what can be done to prevent people from leaving their jobs. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce more than 47 million workers quit their jobs in 2021, however New York ranks lower in people leaving the workforce compared to other states. 

Karen Cacace, Labor Bureau Chief with the Attorney General’s Office says, there are four main reasons for the shortage: low compensation, workplace culture,  generational divide in the workplace and decision making by employers. One of those decisions are non-compete clauses which prohibits employees from working with competing businesses for a specific amount of time after their employment has ended. Cacace said they were once used sparingly and now are overused. “And one of the problems is that for low-wage workers there’s no negotiation, the employer is simply saying, ‘if you want the job, these are the hiring documents which you sign which includes a non-compete’ … they are just subject to whatever the employer determines,” she said. Cacace said instead, there could be agreements for employees not to take clientele if they change jobs. 

James Parott, Director of Economic and Fiscal Policies for NYC Affairs at the New School said, New York’s employment rate from October is 3.1% below pre-pandemic levels. Parrot said the decline in jobs stems mostly from lower paid face-to-face industries: leisure and hospitality are down 101,000 jobs, retail trade down 51,000, and private educational services down 49,000. How can this be solved? “The BLS [Bureau Labor] statistical analysis concluded that raising wages could ameliorate high quit rates, effectively raising the cost to workers of changing jobs, raising wages could also attract workers and increase higher rates. The State Division of the Budget concurs that raising wages is an appropriate means to address New York’s Labor Shortage,” said Parott.  

Additionally, compared to the national average, there’s a higher percentage of New Yorkers leaving the workforce to care for their children or an elderly person.