The impact of the Great Resignation on Black-owned businesses and workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s a movement that has hit every state and every community — the “Great Resignation.”

Those three words represent the more than 47 million people who quit their jobs last year, and the pandemic phenomenon had an impact on Black-owned businesses and workers.

Marsha Banks-Harold sets the tone inside her yoga studio in Northern Virginia.

Across the nation, the pandemic led to millions clearing new paths during the Great Resignation.


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U.S. Department of Labor data shows that the number of people quitting has fluctuated between 37 and 42 million over the past five years. But last year, more than 47 million people left their jobs, which is the highest number in two decades.

It’s a change Banks-Harold said she saw within her clients.

“If they’re in environments where there’s not flexibility, they’re just leaving. They’re like I’m just going to create and opportunity for myself to rely upon my community,” she said.

She said many of her clients are becoming entrepreneurs.

“During that uncertain period of their life, they’ve able to really go inside and define what peace means for them and cultivate opportunities they would have never considered before,” said Banks-Harold.

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The U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t collect race-specific information on resignations, so it’s unclear just how many Black Americans quit last year.

But new research from the University of California Santa Cruz shows Black business ownership is growing.

The report shows there are nearly 1.5 million Black-owned businesses as of last fall, which is a number surpassing even pre-pandemic levels.

David Clunie, executive director of the Black Economic Alliance, said more minorities are now investing in themselves.

“A lot more people have taken the risk to start their own business, in some cases out of necessity, but in some cases, because they had the opportunity, they had more time,” said Clunie.

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Kofi Annan is one of them.

“I just felt like I wanted to do something else,” said Annan

He quit his job in 2020 and started Soul Rebel food truck last year. He said now he’s feeling the impact of the Great Resignation personally and professionally.

“Eventually we got to the point where we were offering $18 an hour and we still had a hard time hiring people, getting people to stick around, it didn’t like the pay was making a difference,” said Annan.

Now he runs the truck by himself, but knowing would he knows now, Annan said he would still do this again.

“I would probably do it better, do some things differently but I would definitely do it again,” he said.

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Clunie said we’re still learning about the full impact of the Great Resignation, but he said it has brought something else into focus.

“I think it is forced employers to, you know, really dig deeper, literally and figuratively to figure out, you know, how they can keep their talent happy, how they can invest in them in different ways,” said Clunie. “Of course, that starts with, you know, paying them more but also that you know, what kind of benefits they’re providing, how flexible they’re being.”

Banks-Harold said she’s seeing that same shift in her clients.

“A year ago people were just tied to their computers and they were operating from a place of fear and now because of this Great Resignation people are saying ‘I’m going to stay if you’re going to be flexible with me,’” she said.

The Biden administration said the American Rescue Plan also provided emergency grants and loans to Black-owned businesses to help them rehire and retain workers during the pandemic.

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