September 14, 2018

The Roundup: Quit rate at a high, cities where millennials have the most debt, and summer Fridays

In this week’s Roundup, why workers are choosing to leave their jobs at the fastest rate in 17 years, and the cities in which millennials have the most debt. Plus, the deal with summer Fridays.

Workers are quitting their jobs at the fastest rate yet

Bloomberg reports that the quit rate in the U.S. has reached a 17-year high. The Wall Street Journal expands on what this means: “Workers are choosing to leave their jobs at the fastest rate since the internet boom 17 years ago and getting rewarded for it with bigger paychecks and/or more satisfying work.” The publication adds, “Workers have been made more confident by a strong economy and historically low unemployment.”

Bloomberg notes that the increase in quit rate was driven by private-sector employees. The share of people who voluntary left their jobs was up to 2.7% in July – the highest since 2001.

The WSJ highlights two observations. The first is that job-hopping workers skew younger. That is, workers, particularly those starting their careers, are making moves to enter higher-paying jobs and industries. The second is that the job-hopping trend could lead to broader wage growth and improve worker productivity.

The uptick in employee job-hopping, coupled with employee expectations of flexibility, can be challenging for employers. The WSJ article also quotes several employers who note that while compensation is a key driver for employee retention, so are opportunities to grow and expand.

The U.S. cities where millennials have the highest debt

There’s some truth to the phrase “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” at least when it comes to millennial debt.

A new report from lending marketplace LendingTree found that millennials in San Antonio, Pittsburgh, and Austin, Texas, have the largest debts of the 50 biggest metro areas in the U.S. – $27,122, $26,403, and $26,64 respectively. Houston sits at number four, with a median debt balance of $25,978.

Those amounts are all higher than the median debt balance for millennials living in the 50 biggest U.S. cities, which is $23,064, according to the report.

Researchers looked at credit report data and debt balances (excluding mortgages) of LendingTree users who live in the 50 biggest metro areas in the U.S. The cities with the lowest median debt balances are both in California – Sacramento ($18,691) and San Jose ($18,376). The largest debt category for millennials is student debt, which is highest in Philadelphia, and lowest in San Jose.

Why is this worth noting for employers? In a tight labor market and with competition for the best and brightest talent ramping up, offering benefits around financial wellness or loan repayment could be appealing from a hiring and retention perspective.

According to SHRM, companies have been exploring student loan repayment programs (SLRPs). It cites an American Student Assistance survey that highlights how student debt can negatively impact millennials well-being, retirement planning, and overall productivity.

Gartner cites recent surveys that found employees with student debt rank repayment assistance as a top benefit, while HR leaders rank it as their third priority. The firm’s own survey found that employees who take full advantage of all employer benefits have an improved perception of total rewards.

What’s the story behind summer Fridays?

Yes, it’s September, but it’s likely employees everywhere will want to extend “summer Fridays” for as long as good weather prevails.

For most companies, “Summer Fridays” means (whether officially or unofficially) giving employees the perk of having Friday off, or working shortened hours (or some mix of the two). This often happens on the Friday before a long weekend, to give a jump start on travel plans, or provide an extra day to recharge.

Interestingly, according to career expert Marya Trianadafellows in FastCompany, magazine editors are one of the driving forces behind the summer Friday trend.

The current incarnation of summer Fridays originated in the media/publishing industry in New York City to give editors an early jump on their commute to the Hamptons or other summer homes. “It was customary for editors to work from home to review books, so the argument was they’d work over the weekend to compensate for their early Friday exit. The practice spread to other staff, then to other industries,” she explains.

These Fridays have been relegated primarily to summer as it’s typically a slower time for many industries, and a popular time for taking vacations and spending time with family.

There’s some research around the benefits of extending summer Fridays to be a year-round practice – essentially, offering a four-day work week. Some companies do it as an added perk, while others are experimenting with it. The benefits include an increase in work-life balance, less stress, and better productivity and performance.

But the jury’s out on whether this would work universally. Some people have different work habits, a shortened work week may not jive with team timelines or deliverables, or there may be unforeseen circumstances (like illness) that arise.

As employers continue exploring new models that address employee expectations of work-life balance, one thing is clear: flexibility is important – and it’s not just for Fridays.

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

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