Cook County feels the impact of ‘the great resignation’


Many of Cook County’s largest employers – from healthcare to local government – are struggling to find and retain employees as elements of the ‘big resignation’ pile up on the North Coast.

“It’s a real phenomenon,” Cook County Administrator James Joerke said.

The tens of millions of workers who quit their jobs in what some economists are calling the big resignation – 4.4 million in September alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – won’t necessarily need to retrain before they land their next job, the Associated Press Reports. But those who want a new career may find little financial help and social support to learn the skills they need for the future, according to labor experts.

Economics researchers say the pandemic has caused particularly harsh conditions for workers in contact with consumers, including the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and the responsibility for enforcing mask compliance on customers, which has created “undue hardship on workers with whom they are simply unwilling to deal.” “

At a Cook County Council of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, November 23, at least three county employees retired or resigned. This adds up to about a dozen vacancies in the county as the holiday season approaches.
The county typically employs between 115 and 120 people depending on the time of year, Joerke told WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs in a recent interview (audio below). Being down by more than a dozen employees has an impact on the distribution of the workload, he said, which is of concern to community leaders and employers.

Joerke recently hosted a series of listening sessions with county employees to check their morale and how they perceive their jobs in local government. Joerke said COVID-related fatigue and other factors play a role in how employees view the workplace right now.

As vaccination mandates and the ongoing pandemic continue to reshape the relationship of some Cook County employers with their employees, filling positions in some of the community’s largest operations will likely be a situation during the coming winter and potentially beyond.

“There is a high level of burnout in our workforce,” Joerke said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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