The record number of people quitting their jobs has been coined "The Great Resignation." But why are so many people leaving their jobs, even as inflation is at an all-time high and the cost of living is on the rise? In this segment of Backstage Pass, recorded on Nov. 19, Motley Fool contributors Rachel Warren and Toby Bordelon discuss dramatic changes in the labor market.

10 stocks we like better than Walmart
When our award-winning analyst team has an investing tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

They just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Walmart wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

See the 10 stocks

Stock Advisor returns as of 6/15/21

Rachel Warren: Honestly, I think it's safe to say this is not a transitory trend. I think it's a really great point you bring up that one of the factors that is probably driving these numbers that we're seeing here is that people in seeking more flexible work options, are oftentimes going to start their own businesses, whether they're turning their side hustle into a full-time job, or maybe they're starting to freelance full-time, or they're sitting up their own business, making pay more easy, whatever the case may be.

I think you have a lot of people looking for alternative means to support themselves and their families that don't involve the status quo we were seeing before the pandemic. You think about how the fact that according to the labor statistic numbers, U.S. Department of Labor quits have exceeded pre-pandemic levels now for sixth straight months.

It's just growing and I do not see that going anywhere anytime soon. I think it's so many factors and we've talked about 'The Great Resignation' a lot on this show. But I think the point Nick brings up is for sure one aspect.

I think something I've talked about a lot as well and that we've seen in some of these numbers is the industries where people are quitting are industries where there has historically been issues with low wages and perhaps not the safest of working conditions that have only become more increased concerns during the pandemic.

I think another interesting point going off of what Toby mentioned is lack of child care. One thing I think that's important to note besides the obvious points that people leaving low-paying jobs, industries where maybe working standards are not up to par, starting their own business, seeking higher-paying jobs is the fact that women are leaving the workforce at twice the rate of their male counterparts.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, participation of women in the workforce is at a 30-year low.

There was a really interesting article in The Guardian talking about this. The article noted "the pandemic made women's exit from the labor force rapid and highly visible, but the loss of female workers is nothing new. Women's workforce participation rate has been declining steadily since the 2008 financial crisis, and the pandemic merely accelerated an already alarming trend".

The article continues, "American disinvestment in the care economy has waged a war of attrition of women's employment. Women have been forced to choose between jobs where they're paid too little, and child care solutions that costs too much. The result has been a massive loss of talent, creativity, and human potential from the paid economy".

I think in some cases, you might see women departing from the workforce because they are starting their online business or they found a more higher-paying job. There can be very positive reasons. But I think the fact that we are seeing such an imbalance in the number of women leaving the workforce compared to men shows that there's also some perhaps less than positive factors that are driving this.

Maybe women that aren't perhaps ready to leave their jobs have had to do so because all these trends with child care and a lack of investment there that's only become more clear during the pandemic.

I think one other thing to note is you also have a really huge percentage of young people that are leaving their jobs. There was an article in Time that noted that in September nearly a quarter of workers aged 20-34 were not considered part of the U.S. workforce, and that's some 14 million Americans. I think a lot of that is maybe you're going on a freelance platform, you're starting your own business. Again, I think there's a lot of factors driving that.

I think some of them are really positive and I think there's definitely some negative ones to be aware of as well. But yeah, to close up there. I don't see this changing anytime soon. My hope is that there will be some balancing out of these figures we're seeing of women departing the workforce because that's unfortunate to see.

Toby Bordelon: Yeah. Those are all good thoughts, Rachel, I think that's right. It is clear people are still getting jobs, still go in and work. You look at those numbers, 6.5 million hired, 4.4 million quit. I think what may be happening is people want to work, but now, we're in a situation where you're not going to put up with anything you're uncomfortable with or that doesn't work for you. If your employer's not going to take steps to keep you safe during COVID, well, OK, quit and go find one who will. You could probably do that, there are enough job openings.

If your employer is not going to make allowances for you to have a flexible schedule so you can deal with child care, I'm out. I'm going to find one who will because I know someone out there is. I can probably find someone who is willing to make that combination.

I see comment from Ben here in the Slido chat, that two people left his office in the past week to take a job that's 100% telework. They didn't just quit the labor force, but they went to find a job that would accommodate what they wanted. I think that's what's happening.

People are, they're not necessarily burned out, they're not necessarily frustrated with the economy or dejected. Look, I've got a strong job market here, I'm not going to put up with nonsense. That's what it amounts to. I think people maybe taking advantage of increased power flowing to the workers' side of the equation right now because of what looks like a very tight job market.

The bottom line is, it looks right now like it's pretty easy to make a change if you want to. Then you think about people's motivation to make a change, COVID changed priorities major, maybe changed some priorities.

Opportunity is there, people maybe taking advantage of it. I think maybe in terms of the overall push of this study or this article that came out, maybe this is short-term until we get a readjustment and resettling in terms of people leaving.

I don't know, we'll see. But certainly, the opportunity seems to be there right now for workers to go move jobs go do something different if they would like to. I think if you're someone who is frustrated in your job, in your circumstance, maybe one takeaway from what you're reading about as you don't necessarily have to accept that.

There's probably an alternative for you. Someone who will value your skills and your experience and give you the flexibility you need to live the rest of your life. People are taking advantage of that in droves, we're seeing that.