The Great Reshuffling – How the COVID-19 Pandemic Prompted More People to Change Jobs

The Great Reshuffling – How the COVID-19 Pandemic Prompted More People to Change Jobs 760 491 Morris County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC)

The Great Reshuffling – How the COVID-19 Pandemic Prompted More People to Change Jobs


An unprecedented number of U.S. workers quit their jobs in 2021 and 2022, the first full two years of the COVID-19 pandemic — a phenomenon dubbed the Great Resignation. What followed was what’s come to be known as the Great Reshuffling: Some workers exited the labor market entirely, others quit and eventually rejoined the labor force and others changed employers with little or no break in employment.

New U.S. Census Bureau statistics from Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) show to what extent U.S. workers changed jobs across industries during and after the pandemic emergency was declared over in 2023.

LEHD’s Job-to-Job Flows (J2J) data product now includes an experimental research release of job flow counts across industries from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) down to a more detailed subsector level (3-digit NAICS).

Analyzing industry subsectors rather than just industry sectors captures job shifts within and across industries, painting a richer picture of how frequently workers changed jobs during the pandemic.

For example, Food Service and Drinking Places is a subsector of an industry called Accommodation and Food Services. Our statistics show that in 2021, workers in this subsector were more likely than they were in 2019 to switch to jobs in another industry subsector like General Merchandise Retailers, part of the Retail Trade sector.

They were also less likely to transition into jobs in Administrative and Support Services, a subsector of yet another industry, during that same period. These new origin-destination statistics also show that the Administrative and Support Services subsector was a top source and destination of jobs for workers changing employment. The COVID-19 pandemic had a marked impact on the frequency of job changes between subsectors.

Job Switching by Industry

Where in the economy did all these job changes take place?

Four industries experienced the largest number of job-to-job transitions in 2021 (Figure 1): Administrative and Support Services; Food Services and Drinking Places; Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; and Ambulatory Health Care Services. A job transition for workers in these industries often involved a change in industry subsector.

For example, when the pandemic hit in March 2020, many bars and restaurants shuttered leading to a major outflow of workers from Food Services and Drinking Places. But outflows declined rapidly in 2021 and 2022 as establishments began to reopen. Other industries affected by the pandemic also experienced a brief drop in 2020 but recovered in 2021 as safety measures eased.

The new data provide a window into longer-term trends, too, showing for instance that workers in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services industry were more likely to shift to jobs within their subsector than to one in another industry. The share of people who switched jobs in that industry to go to a different one declined to less than 60% in 2022 from 65% in 2005.

The Great Reshuffling - How the COVID-19 Pandemic Prompted More People to Change Jobs

Destination Industries for Job Switchers

The new J2J Job Flows detailed industry tables tell us where workers who left one industry subsector went (Table 1).

For example, the Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services sector was the top destination of workers who left Administrative and Support Services jobs in 2021, accounting for 6.4% of all job-to-job flows, up slightly from 6.0% in 2019.

The Administrative and Support Services industry was the most common destination of workers who left Food and Drinking Places; Professional and Technical Services; Specialty Trade Contractors; and Nursing and Residential Care Facilities.

What the New Data Release Offers

The new J2J data allows users to calculate the back-and-forth flow of jobs between industries. For example, while job outflow rates in the Food and Drinking Places industry have now returned to pre-COVID rates, the recently released stats detail where exiting workers went and new ones came from. The share of workers who switched from jobs in the Food Service and Drinking Places sector to ones in Administrative and Support Services, for instance, declined from 8.4% in 2019 to 6.9% in 2021 (Table 1).

Figure 2 illustrates that workers who left this industry in 2021 were more likely than they were in 2019 to accept jobs in the General Merchandise Retailers or Food and Beverage Stores.