New Jersey continues to have trouble finding enough workers to fill openings, as many residents continue to pile up federal unemployment benefits following COVID-19 pandemic layoffs.

But in a survey of 2,800 people nationwide who are still employed on the downslope of the health crisis, nearly a third of them (32%) say they will be looking for new jobs in the next couple of months.

The survey, by staffing firm Robert Half, identified career advancement and a desire for increased salary as the top reasons employees want to jump jobs.

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"We're in very interesting times," Dora Onyschak, Robert Half regional director for central New Jersey, said. "We are in what they call the highest 'quit rate' market, where people are willing to leave stable positions to look for new opportunities."

Onyschak said it's the younger generations of workers who are driving the evolving job market, with 66% of Gen Z professionals feeling that their careers have stalled since the beginning of the pandemic.

If these relatively new members of the workforce aren't being challenged, she said, they want to move on — and quickly.

Another factor: They may also be on the lower end of the wage spectrum.

"A third of those people are more likely to move because they want more professional development opportunities," Onyschak said of those earning less than $50,000 a year, "but it certainly is tied in with a salary change."

In the next income bracket, $50,000 to $100,000, Onyschak said one-third of respondents want to switch jobs solely for salary reasons.

A new and interesting trend is the eagerness of many workers to transition into full-time contracting, as demand for certain specific skills increases. Nearly 4 in 10 (39%) nationwide say they are intrigued by that possibility, led by 46% of workers ages 25 to 40.

"As an individual, though, you really need to determine if contracting is right for you by looking at the different types of projects or roles that would interest you, and what your marketable skills are," Onyschak said, adding that leaving a reliable position to enter a field that is not in high demand is not advisable.

As unemployment was spiking at the outset of COVID, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked national conversations on racial and social justice, and those developments have also affected workers.

Nearly three-quarters (71%) now say they would leave, or not even seek employment with, a company that does not match up with their personal beliefs.

Onyschak said diversity and inclusion are right up alongside employee well-being when workers consider company values.

"Professionals have really had kind of a change in perspective, a change in what's important to them, and organizations need to also change. They need to realign," she said.

One more element that the pandemic largely introduced which figures to stick around permanently is remote work. Almost half (47%) of respondents to the survey said they would like their next job to be fully remote.

Employees have said that work-from-home capabilities improve morale, increase productivity, and allow for a better work-life balance, according to Onyschak.

While New Jersey-level data was not available, the Philadelphia metro area produced some of the most polarizing numbers of the survey. Its percentage of workers who plan to look for new jobs soon was dead last among the 28 cities measured (22%), but with the third-highest amount of those who want to be fully remote (59%).

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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