Many workers have quit their former jobs, don't look back – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

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Jermisha Harper poses for a portrait inside her salon, Harper 57 Aesthetics, on Nov. 4, 2021. Failing to find work, even as businesses struggle to keep enough employees, Harper struck out on her own. 
Jermisha Harper stocks salon products on the shelves of her business, Harper 57 Aesthetics, on Nov. 4, 2021.
Barker
Dillon
Pegues

Reporter
Jermisha Harper poses for a portrait inside her salon, Harper 57 Aesthetics, on Nov. 4, 2021. Failing to find work, even as businesses struggle to keep enough employees, Harper struck out on her own. 
Jermisha Harper stocks salon products on the shelves of her business, Harper 57 Aesthetics, on Nov. 4, 2021.
Barker
Dillon
Pegues
TUPELO • Even as many businesses struggle to find and keep workers, American workers have been leaving their jobs in record numbers.
Dubbed the “Great Resignation,” millions of Americans have voluntarily left their jobs at high rates for seven consecutive months. In August – the most recent data available – the U.S. Department of Labor said nearly 4.3 million quit their jobs. That represents 3% of the workforce. 
The food service and accommodation industries lost 892,000 workers, while some 721,000 retail workers quit and 534,000 health care and social assistance employees left. No sector has been left unscathed.
The high quit rates indicate a healthy economy, since it suggests workers feel optimistic about their prospects in finding better, higher-paying jobs, according to many economists.
But the high quit rates can also be attributed to job burnout, a reluctance return to an office setting after an extended period of working from home, an inability to find reliable and affordable childcare or, perhaps, people who just want to strike out on their own.
Kyle Barker left a longtime career with Comcast Business in Tupelo to establish his own marketing and design firm, Apex Marketing.
With a wife and newborn child and a second kid on the way, Barker said he’d begun reevaluating the balance between his work and homelife. 
We had a lot going on from a family standpoint, and it makes you look at life and ask how much control do you want to give yourself versus what you give somebody else,” he said.
After talking things over with his wife, Barker left Comcast to concentrate on Apex, which had been a side gig for years. 
It was a great living, great career, great company, and I appreciated everything they did — but it could be taken away at any moment,” Barker said of Comcast. “I didn’t like that vulnerability. I had a lot of great relationships in the field, and I decided it was time to take it from there to here and take control of things.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told Time magazine that the conditions are good for workers to exert pressure on their employers.
For at least two generations, workers have been on their back heels,” he said. We are now seeing a labor market that is tight and prospects are becoming increasingly clear that it’s going to remain tight. It’s now going to be a workers’ market, and they’re empowered. I think they are starting to flex their collective muscle.”
John Dillon was at Tecumseh Products Co. for eight years,  and was working in the inventory and quality field when he decided to quit last April.
“I planned to quit in 2020 to pursue my dreams of a full time entrepreneur, but the pandemic left a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “My job position was taken away due to downsizing, and I was forced to a position I did not want. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to quit.”
Dillon had been running multiple “side hustles” for the last four years, and business was ramping up to where he was able to quit Tecumseh.
“After I quit, I decided to pivot and create a new business,” he said. “I’ve scaled down my side hustles and run PennyStock.Guru, a stock market news and updates alert subscription service  … It was sink or swim. I created a SaaS business that makes 10 times what I was making and I haven’t once looked back. I now travel frequently and live my best life.
Even as Americans are quitting jobs at a record pace, the nation remains 4.7 million jobs short of the number it had before the pandemic flattened the economy in March 2020. The effects of the virus are still discouraging some people from traveling, shopping, eating out and attending entertainment venues.
The number of long-term unemployed — people out of work for six months or more — has fallen sharply in recent months, from 4.2 million to 2.3 million in October. That is still double the pre-recession total, but it’s an encouraging sign because employers are typically wary of hiring people who haven’t held jobs for an extended period.
But the number of people either working or looking for a job was unchanged in October. That suggested that the reopening of schools in September, the waning of the virus, and the expiration of a $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement have yet to coax many people off the sidelines of the job market in large numbers.
For Jermisha Harper, it wasn’t necessarily quitting one job for another — it was getting a job, period. Despite the many “Help Wanted” and “Now Hiring” signs at many businesses, Harper was a young single parent hoping to put her degree and license to work. 
Her story unfolded several years ago, having graduated from high school and then going directly to the U.S. Army. She had gotten injured and was looking for her next step in life.
“I was thinking maybe it would be better if I worked for myself, but I should get a degree just for backup,” she said.
Harper then earned her associates degree from Itawamba Community College and decided to do something in the beauty industry since the Army helped pay for her to go to makeup school. She also got her aesthetician’s license with the hope to work in movies and for magazines.
But being more practically minded, Harper was ready to work and hoped to get started with an established business. She knocked on several doors, only to be turned away because of her lack of experience. Continuing to look for jobs, she took more classes and found more training to polish her resume.
She found friends and family to practice on, and through word-of-mouth and social media, she began attracting paid customers. Last December, she opened her own salon, Harper 57 Aesthetics, where she offers body sculpting, waxing and facials and anything beauty related except for hair. She’s outgrown her space twice, and is thinking about finding a larger place, but she’s not in a rush to do so just yet.
She’s pleased that her dreams of having her own business are coming true, but she’s looking for more. Now pursuing a double major in health care administration and marketing at Delta State, Harper hopes to be able to have additional locations of her salon one day.
“I was almost at the point of giving up,” she admitted. “It was hard, and even after learning how to work around COVID, I had my days that I thought I wouldn’t make it.”
Natalie Pegues moved from Columbus to Tupelo in 2009 to go to surgical tech school, then got a job at North Mississippi Medical Center in 2011. She was a surgical tech until March, when she decided to quit to concentrate on her online women’s boutique.
Her business, Bold N Beautiful Collection by Nat P, was growing fast, and she was running out of time in the day to do both her job at the hospital and oversee her business.
“It was getting to be too much having to work in surgery and sometimes the hours being long,” she said. “You might get off at 6 or at 10, but you still have business to handle online.”
Pegues started the business in 2018. In the early days, if she shipped 10 orders, it was a good week. Today, she’s shipping 200 or more orders a week across the country. She’s even sent items to customers in the Bahamas and Canada.
“I’ve had to get a warehouse because I have to keep so much inventory now,” she said. “I’ve almost outgrown it, and it’s only been a year. It’s a good problem to have.”
Pegues was happy with her job at the hospital and never thought her online boutique was grow so much. But with the pandemic forcing people to stay home and shop online, her business was able to expand rapidly.
“I never thought this would become my reality,” she said. I always loved fashion, always loved dressing up and going online shopping — which gets me in trouble sometimes — but my husband told me to just go for it and I did. I enjoyed my job and loved my patients, but this was my passion. I have no regrets whatsoever.”
dennis.seid@djournal.com
Reporter
Dennis covers business and economic development for the Daily Journal.
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