Rhonda Silence

Cook County feels impacts from ‘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 ‘great resignation’ roll up the North Shore.

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

The tens of millions of workers who have left their jobs in what some economists are calling the great 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 entirely may find little financial help and social support to acquire the skills they need for the future, labor experts say.

Economics researchers say the pandemic caused especially difficult conditions for consumer-facing workers, including risk of COVID-19 exposure and the responsibility to enforce mask compliance on customers, which created an “undue burden on workers they’re just not willing to deal with.”

During a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 23, at least three county employees either retired or resigned. This comes on top of approximately a dozen vacancies at the county heading into the holiday season.
The county typically employs somewhere between 115 to 120 employees depending on the time of year, Joerke told WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs during a recent interview (audio below). To be down more than a dozen staff impacts distribution of the workload, he said, which is concerning for community leaders and employers.

Joerke recently hosted a series of listening sessions with county employees to check in on morale and how they view their employment with local government. Joerke said COVID fatigue and other factors are playing a role in how employees view the workplace at this time.

As vaccine mandates and the ongoing pandemic continue to reshape the relationship for some employers in Cook County with their employees, filling positions at some of the community’s largest operations is likely to be a situation through the oncoming winter and potentially beyond.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.