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The Great Resignation: Why are people leaving their jobs in Colorado Springs, and where are they going

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado currently ranks in the top ten states with the highest "quit rate" - exceeding the national average according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Amid the pandemic, a record number of people are deciding to leave and quit their jobs. Labor Department data shows that 4.4 million people quit their jobs in the U.S. in September, and the ongoing worker shortage is impacting southern Colorado right now, especially small businesses.

Rasta Pasta has been a staple in downtown Colorado Springs for over a decade, but the last 20 months have been challenging.

"We were all just a little unprepared for what would happen after we were allowed to re-opened," says owner Rebecca Taraborelli.

Taraborelli hoped things would get easier after the initial Covid lockdowns, but she says the roller coaster is just beginning.

"I think that there's a labor shortage, but quite frankly think we've had a mass exodus from the industry," says Taraborelli.

Rasta Pasta has 14 employees as of Wednesday, which is several fewer than they're used to. They are looking to hire, and they're really in need of qualified line cooks, but even with a slimmed-down staff, Taraborelli is adapting. She's offering a set schedule, a rarity in the restaurant world, and recently increased paychecks.

"We're paying more than we've ever paid," says Taraborelli. "That's tough because everything is more expensive, but it's the right thing to do and I think it does help retain people.”

Even with so many small businesses doing everything they can to keep staff, 900,000 workers left the hospitality industry specifically in August, according to the Labor Department.

We're seeing that locally too. Economists say the hospitality industry is what most people are leaving in Colorado Springs, transitioning to more office-based jobs. There's a big demand for jobs in the finance and insurance sectors right now. These jobs typically pay more, have more regular hours, and offer remote work opportunities and better benefits.

"It looks like we square up pretty well if you look at openings and the percentage of people who are unemployed, but really what we have is a miss-match between openings and what workers' skill levels are," says Rachel Beck, VP Government Affairs, COS Chamber and EDC.

That's why local organizations are working together to close that gap.

"We have resources to help employers redo their job descriptions --a skills-based, competency-based job description-- and you are opening the door to a lot more opportunity looking at transferable skill sets," says Traci Marques, CEO and Executive Director of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.

Experts say the pandemic accelerated and underscored the labor shortages, but the root of a lot of problems is pre-pandemic. The U.S. workforce is likely to shrink even more in the coming years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as more people get to retirement age and fewer people have children. This has been exasperated recently because a lot of people chose to take early retirement instead of working through all the Covid complications.

"It's like the wild west ... you order 60 cases of food and then the following day you have no idea what time the truck is coming because they have driver shortages," says Taraborelli.

If there are fewer people working, the supply chain is disrupted and it drives up prices, which is what we're seeing right now.

"Pre-pandemic cost us between $65 and $69 a case, and now paying between $133 and $144 for a case of chicken," says Taraborelli.

For Taraborelli, running a restaurant has never been harder, but she says she'll continue serving up a little spice, through all the uncertainty.

"Do what we've always done in the restaurant industry which is work hard, be innovative, and keep hustling," says Taraborelli.

Economists say it's going to be at least 3-5 years before the hospitality industry fully recovers. They tell us it's hard to predict the long-term impacts of this labor shortage, but in the short-term, we are already seeing more incentives and raising wages in certain industries to attract workers. That increase is often passed on to the consumer.

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Brynn Carman

Brynn is an anchor on Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about Brynn here.

Comments

2 Comments

  1. There has been an exodus of people leaving Colorado Springs even since Denver workers started moving down here. That caused the cost of housing to go through the roof, more than many people can afford while living on Colorado Springs wages.

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