Disappearing Workforce

Disappearing Workforce: What It Means and Where Have Workers Gone?

Business Career Shakeups and Lifestyle Changes Entrepreneurialism

If you’re American, there’s a question on your mind right now: when is the workforce going to return to normal?

Unfortunately, “The Great Resignation” isn’t ending anytime soon – we’re still seeing the consequences of a dwindling labor force nationwide with little signs of resolution.

There are many reasons for the disappearing workforce, including early retirement, poor pay, demand for better opportunities, etc. Below, we’re breaking all the factors that are contributing to a disappearing workforce and what we can expect for the future.

Early Retirement

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in their late fifties and early sixties decided to retire early or were forced into early retirement by their companies. Companies responded to the loss of revenue they were experiencing starting in March 2020 and encouraged older employees to end their careers, leading to fewer employees in major corporations, public offices, etc.

These companies found that by retiring their older, more experienced personnel and hiring younger, less experienced personnel, they could improve the bottom line. They did this by paying new personal less for the same work that was required before.

However, not everyone wanted to accept positions with these new terms, leading to many companies being unable to hire new people or win their previous employees back.

Healthcare Workers

Healthcare workers had a huge burden placed on their shoulders last year, and they are still carrying the burden of caring for COVID-19 patients today. Regrettably, the workforce for healthcare workers, especially nurses, have been disappearing long before the pandemic. However, the pandemic has transformed this small concern into a gigantic problem.

There have been as many nurses quitting in the healthcare profession in the last twenty years as in 2021. This is due to the amount of stress that is being put on these nurses due to high demand and short-staffing problems. In addition, many nurses are concerned that they could bring home COVID-19 to their loved ones, and they’re avoiding working in hospitals at all costs.

Mental Health Care

The demand for therapists has increased since 2020. Other than many common reasons why the demand for therapy is so high, people nationwide are coping with increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues as a result of COVID-19, political opposition, and other issues. Many are also coping with the death of a loved one due to COVID-19 and need counseling to cope.

It’s also now easier for people to receive therapy than ever before through video conferencing and telehealth services, increasing the demand. However, there aren’t enough licensed and experienced therapists to see everyone. These positions require advanced degrees (some people take at least eight years to complete a program), so it’s impossible to increase the number of therapists fast enough to meet demand.

Unfortunately, not everyone who needs mental health services can access a therapist in 2021. Many are no longer seeing new clients because they have maxed out their availability, and sliding scale positions are also fully booked. We may see a slight improvement in December 2021 and May 2022 when new graduates emerge from school and being residencies.

Gig Economy

A huge part of the disappearing workforce is the gig economy by working for Doordash, Uber, and Airbnb. However, there are more gigs that people are turning to instead of working in retail or restaurants, like freelance writing, consulting, and even security testing. Some of these gigs do not require any previous experience, which makes them accessible and more appealing.

Many people discovered the positives of working in the gig field during lockdown in 2020. New gig workers enjoyed flexible schedules, so they can decide how many hours they work a week. These perks became suddenly more attractive to working in retail, food service, or 9-5 positions, where tensions are high due to fixed schedules and short-staffing issues.

In 2021, workers are still disappearing from the workforce and becoming gig workers instead.

That being said, the turnover rate in the gig economy is quite high, which shows that people are attracted to these positions but not retaining their jobs for months or even more than a few days.

Experts believe we can expect people to slowly return to the workforce and resume food service, retail, and public works positions once their trial run with Uber and Doordash is over.

gig economy

Self-employed Workers

Many self-employed people were once employees who held everyday jobs. However, when the pandemic hit, many people were laid off or furloughed and forced to become self-employed. Previous hobbies like making specialty cups, sewing blankets, making jewelry, and even becoming TikTok famous, became into full-time self-employment.

People began to realize they could make money without going into an office and choose their own schedule. For many parents, this lifestyle allows them to stay at home with their kids, which means they can save money on childcare and do something they love.

As a result, people who can sustain a self-emplyoed lifestyle see no incentive in rejoining the workforce. However, not every person who attempts self-employment is successful, and many will return to the workforce after attempting to be their own boss in the years to come.


Today, childcare is a necessity. Many couples with kids have dual-income households so they can live comfortably. However, because of the rise in childcare costs, and the constant closures in childcare services due to COVID-19, many partners are choosing to have single-income households.

In many households, one of the parent’s salaries barely covers the cost of childcare, making it more affordable to have one parent stay home with the child while the other becomes the breadwinner. This accounts for a large portion of the disappearing workforce. When one parent opts to stay home with their children, there is one less person in the workforce.

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying that the disappearing workforce is one of America’s most pressing issues. The rise of self-employment and the gig economy and demands for better work conditions are contributing to a widespread reluctance to return to jobs held before the pandemic.

However, we may see signs of improvement if corporations listen to the demands of employees and decide to offer more competitive perks to rejoining the workforce.

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