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Are You Over the Relentless Pursuit of More?

How are you feeling about work these days? Are you taking stock of your life and starting to question your job? (You're not alone.)

America is going through a pretty major reconfiguration of the labor market. Headlines are calling it the "Great Resignation" but I think it's deeper than that.

The pandemic caused us to think long and hard about a lot of things. Where we work. How we work. What work means. What we want out of life.

This rethinking of the role of work is having a real-world impact on our economy. It's visible on the supply side of the labor market:

Folks retiring ahead of schedule (not all by choice). Folks quitting their jobs. Folks (primarily women) caring for kids and family instead of going back to work. Folks striking over pay and working conditions. Folks starting new businesses.

And on the demand side:

Restaurants struggling to staff up. Shipping ports clogging up because there aren't enough truckers to haul goods away. Employers offering higher wages and perks to attract job seekers.

We could look at employment as a transaction: a certain amount of work for a certain amount of pay. But it's really much more than that.

For many of us, who we are as a worker...A business owner...A boss...Is central to our identity. 

Let's remember that behind the numbers are real people with real struggles. A parent with a medically fragile kid who is afraid to go back to work. A business owner who worries the staffing shortage will put her out of business. A laid-off worker who doesn't have the skills needed to get a different job. A manager who is doing two jobs because he can't fill a key role.

It's hard to say what the labor market upheaval will mean for the economy.

It could cause a slowdown in some sectors if businesses struggle to fulfill demand. It could lead to increased inflation if higher wages get passed on as higher prices. It could be a factor in a market correction. It could also accelerate trends toward automation, remote work, and offshoring. Like most major events in history, the overall consequences won’t be fully visible for a long time.

What’s your take on all this? Are you thinking about any big work or life changes?