Why Are Workers Quitting? 1/3 Are Starting Their Own Businesses


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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly, and perhaps permanently, disrupted labor in the U.S. While many workers were laid off or furloughed in 2020 as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns, the trend in 2021 is workers quitting. According to the U.S. Labor Department, 4 million people handed in their letters of resignation in April alone.

To find out what’s behind the “Great Resignation,” in July, Digital.com surveyed 1,250 American adults 18 and older who quit their jobs within the last 6 months.

Key Findings

  • 32% of Americans quitting their jobs are starting their own businesses
  • ‘I want to be my own boss’ tops reasons why Americans are quitting to start their own businesses
  • 60% of new entrepreneurs used lockdown to learn about starting and running a business
  • IT, retail, and personal care services most popular industries for new biz owners

Americans are quitting for a broad array of reasons

While 66% percent of respondents say they took the pandemic into consideration, there’s no definitive motivator as to why so many Americans are quitting, but rather a broad array of reasons.

As one might expect, the most common reasons are to seek better pay and benefits (44%), focus on their health (42%), and find a job they’re more passionate about (41%).

However, 32% of U.S. adults who’ve quit see an opportunity to transition from employee to employer.

Among new entrepreneurs, secondary motivating factors for quitting include wanting to focus on their health (52%), seeking better pay and benefits (51%), transitioning to remote work indefinitely (51%), and finding a job they are more passionate about (51%).

‘I want to be my own boss’ a driving motivator behind new business ventures

Sixty-two percent of Americans who are starting their own businesses say it’s because they want to be their own boss. In close second, 60% say it’s because they want to pursue an idea they are passionate about.

According to startup consultant and small business expert Dennis Consorte, following one’s passion is crucial to counteracting the stresses that come with running a small business.

“Many people believe that business ownership means setting your own hours and answering to no one,” he says. “The truth is that for many business owners, a half-day is twelve hours, every single customer is your boss, and you have to hustle to stay afloat. However, by pursuing a passion, work won’t feel like work, but will instead give you purpose, which is far more valuable than the dollars earned.”

IT, retail, and personal care services most popular industries for new owners

Our survey found businesses are being started the most in the fields of computer & information technology (12%), retail (10%), and personal care services (9%).

In terms of how these businesses will function, there’s a near even split between in-person (32%), e-commerce (31%), and businesses that combine in-person and e-commerce (37%).

Men and high earners lead new business charge

The entrepreneurial spirit is similar across most demographics, including age and race. However, men are quitting their jobs to start a new business at a lightly higher rate than women (36% compared to 27%).

The availability of resources is another factor that appears to play a role in one’s decision to start a businesses. Our survey found that 42% of people who earn $150,000 or more annually quit their jobs to establish their own business, compared to only 27% of people who earn $50,000 or less per year.

New entrepreneurs used lockdowns to educate themselves

For aspiring entrepreneurs, the months of COVID-related lockdowns may have been a blessing in disguise.

Sixty percent of budding entrepreneurs say now is the right time to start a business because they used their free time during the lockdowns to educate themselves for it.

The pandemic inspired a similar number of people (59%) to strike out into the world of business ownership by demonstrating how vulnerable they were working for someone else.

The three stimulus payments that Americans received throughout the pandemic also came in handy for aspiring entrepreneurs. Forty-three percent say they’re using their stimulus money as seed funding for their new business enterprises.

Experts say it’s a great time to start a business

While starting a business is always a big risk, there’s a high payoff right now, according to Consorte.

“There is no better time to start a small business,” Consorte says. “In this global, modern economy, jobs at large companies will be displaced through automation and offshoring. The best thing you can do is to figure out how you can create value for others that is unique and difficult to replicate.”

To help mitigate the risks of starting a small business, Consorte says there are a few key things entrepreneurs can do.

“Think through your idea and build a financial model on paper that is both profitable and sustainable before you make a significant cash investment,” he says.

Consorte also advises all businesses, even those that are primarily brick-and-mortar, to remember the importance of an online presence.

“New small business owners need to develop some kind of online presence,” Consorte says. “Social media is a good start, and a website will give you a lot more control over your database and marketing options.”


All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Digital.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 adult Americans who quit their jobs within the last 6 months were surveyed. Appropriate respondents were found via a screening question. This survey was conducted over a two-day span, starting on July 21, 2021, and ending July 22, 2021. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities.

Reviewed by: Dennis Consorte

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