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Here's why millions of Americans are quitting their jobs to change careers

Washington state, as well as the country, has felt the effects of "The Great Resignation." So what is it, and is it helping workers find happiness?

SEATTLE — Every minute in the U.S., more than 90 people are quitting their jobs. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than four million people left a job in November and then again in December.

It's been called "The Great Resignation" or "The Big Quit." It's a trend that grew out of the COVID-19 pandemic offering employees more options when it came to where, when and how they worked.

Annelise Vance Sherman is an economist with the Washington State Employment Security Department and says people who left their jobs did so in search of better pay, flexibility and improved lifestyle. 

But, did it work? 

KING 5 asked four people in Washington who left their job during The Big Quit to ask: Are you happier or do you have regrets? 

The answer is clear for former emergency room nurses Tanya and Daniel Clarke who say the pandemic hit especially hard. 

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“We have spent a lot of time with people on the worst days of their lives, and we really wanted to shift that to being with people on the happiest days of their lives," said Tanya. 

After years of putting off their dream jobs for stable work, the pandemic offered this couple a chance to pull the plug. 

"We kept saying next year, five years and then everything shut down. We were isolated," said Daniel. 

The couple left their jobs in Chico, California and bought land in Goldendale Washington to live their dream of owning a reindeer farm. It's work that includes hauling feed, tending to livestock, and fencing their property. 

"We work harder here than we ever have, but it's a joyful kind of work," said the couple whose farm now has five reindeer and focuses on education and tours.

It's a sentiment shared by former labor and delivery surgical technician Tammie Krambule who left her job to start a freeze-dried candy-making business last summer. 

"I was doing 12-hour shifts and at a stress level of 10 the entire time,” said Krambule. 

Krambule and her husband have nine kids, and with schools in flux and a bus driver shortage that hit in the fall, Tammie needed a job that kept her home. 

“I started making candy for some friends, and it kept going on and on with more demand, so I turned it into a business," said Krambule. 

She started with one freeze dryer machine and is now looking to get a third earning income selling candy at local markets on the weekends. While she earns about 30% less, Krambule says the decision to leave her job was scary but worth it. 

“I can pay the mortgage, we can put food on the table and everyone’s happy, and to me, that's successful," Krambule said. 

Success is now defined differently for the more than 650,000 Washingtonians who left their job during The Great Resignation. 

Vance Sherman said that while healthcare saw a big dip, high quit rates are normal following a recession as the economy heats back up. But they've never been this high. 

"We are climbing out of an exceptionally dark hole," said Sherman. 

Sherman said companies that were able to transition faster to work-from-home or learned how to adapt during the pandemic to stay in business bounced back quicker than anyone thought or than employees were ready for. 

"Companies are now having to compete more than ever for workers if they're able to," said Sherman, who says competition is a sign of optimism in the economy. 

The unemployment rate in King County was 3.2% in December but the labor force grew by 2.4%, meaning there's less competition for jobs. 

The hot job market inspired former software developer Nishika Tripathi, who left a six-figure a year job at Amazon, to be a freelance dog walker for Seattle-based Rover. 

"My LinkedIn is kind of popping in a sense," said Tripathi who put aside coding full time to dabble in a possible future in real estate. 

"If I really wanted to make a difference in real estate, I realized I need to put 40 hours into that," said Tripathi who credits the social media platform TikTok for the courage, saying," I've seen so many people follow their passions and do so amazing with it."

Tripathi said she is relying on savings to get by. Something the pandemic brought front and center for former hair salon manager Carol Robertson. 

“I'll probably work another 10 years, and I really didn't have anything saved for retirement," said Robertson, who now does admin work for the Duvall Fire Department. 

"I work mostly by myself in my office now which is refreshing. At the same time, it's isolating," said Robertson. 

Despite the loneliness, Robertson says the extra money being able to save for retirement is worth the change of pace. 

While Robertson, Tripathi, Krambule and the Clarkes all say they found happiness, Sherman said there are many people that didn't and it's too early to say if The Big Quit is here to stay. 

"If and once we see people returning to the office and barriers to re-enter the workforce come down, we could start to see these quit rates level off," said Sherman. 

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