Low wages drive resignations in Salem area, poll finds

About one quarter of WIllamette Valley residents have quit a job in the past two years, most frequently because of low wages.

The data comes from a sample of 260 people in the valley as part of a larger survey given by Oregon Values and Beliefs Center–a nonpartisan organization that provides opinion research on a broad range of topics in the state. 

The survey aimed to determine whether and how the pandemic impacted Oregonian’s work and if the state has been impacted by what is being dubbed nationwide as “The Great Resignation” that has seen workers leaving their positions. 

The survey was given July 8-16. 

In the Willamette Valley, which includes Marion, Polk and four other counties, 41% of those who responded said nothing about their employment has changed in the past two years because of Covid.

Statewide, 28% of 1,017 respondents said they had quit a job within the last two years making it one in four people across the state. 

In the Willamette Valley, 26% said they too had left a job in that time period. When asked why and given a range of reasons, 48% in the Willamette Valley said their resignation was due to low wages. 

Other reasons included feeling disrespected at work (36%), no opportunity for advancement (32%), working too many hours (20%) and childcare issues (13%). 

When asked what has caused people to leave their jobs generally, respondents were given two options: because people had gotten used to not working during the pandemic and were living on savings and unemployment benefits, or the high cost of living and housing made it impossible for people to afford to work low wage jobs forcing them to find other ways to make a living. 

Of the 420 people who were asked in the Willamette Valley, 34% totally agreed that people had become used to not working during the pandemic and were living on unemployment benefits and savings. Of those people, 29% had completed college. 

Sixty-one percent said they totally agreed that the high cost of living and housing had pushed people to find another way to make a living. Of those respondents, 65% had completed college. 

While 41% of Willamette Valley respondents said the pandemic did not impact their work, 20% said they went on unemployment for at least a short period of time, 11% started a new job in order to work from home, 11% became self employed and 5% became a stay at home parent. 

The numbers of respondents from the Willamette Valley changes, said Amaury Vogel of OVBC because the survey asks questions based on responses. For example, if an individual responded that they did not leave their job over the last two years, the system would omit them from questions related to resigning a position. 

The survey was conducted online and due to rounding or multiple choice questions, some responses may not add up to 100%. 

Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].

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Caitlyn May served as a journalist for nearly a decade in Nevada and in Linn Lane counties in Oregon with a focus on rural stories and long-form journalism. A graduate of both Oregon State University and the University of Oregon, she currently serves as an elementary school teacher but returns to journalism now and then, remaining a dedicated supporter of the Fourth Estate.