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Where Are The Workers? 3 People Who Left Jobs, Chased Dreams During Pandemic

BOSTON (CBS) – You've seen the help wanted signs at the coffee shop, the supermarket, your favorite restaurants. All are looking to hire.

There are jobs, but no workers. They're not just sitting at home. Claims for unemployment are at a 50-year low. So where are the workers?

Two years ago Boston was shut down, empty and depressing. But the Zakim Bridge is no longer empty. Traffic is back. Fenway is no longer deserted. Red Sox fans are back. The city is no longer barren of Bostonians.

According to the Department of Labor, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November alone. It's the highest number in the two decades they've been tracking that stat. Hotels and restaurants have been hit the hardest.

So where did everyone go? We asked on Twitter and got flooded with replies. There was a common theme: a lot of people ditched old jobs for new careers.

RESTAURANT WORKER TO ENTREPRENEUR

Let's start with Lizzie Havoc in her kitchen in Winthrop. It's where she now makes soap for her new business Beach Witch Bars after spending 20 years working in restaurants.

"I am a prime example of someone who would have done it until the day I died," Havoc said.

The COVID shutdown forced her to sit, think, and re-invent.

"First few bars came out great, and people started asking to buy them," said Havoc, who believes if it weren't for the pandemic she wouldn't have made the change.

Massachusetts gave workers an extra $600 per week on top of unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

NEW FOOD TRUCK OWNER

With unemployment and $2,400 a month, time and some extra cash helped Dan Wilder.

After seven months at home, he and a friend bought a food truck. While his kids were learning remotely, Wilder was researching what would it be like to be his own boss.

"A lot of people I used to work with aren't in the restaurant business anymore. Only a couple I know are still in the business," he said.

Workers
(WBZ-TV graphic)

According to Career Cloud, Massachusetts' so-called "quit rates" increased by almost 50% in 2021. It was the second-highest jump in the country.

RETAIL WORKER TO STUDENT

Marilyn Machuca is part of the so-called "Great Resignation."

"I was like 'OK I have some thinking to do. What am I going to do?" she said.

Machuca had taken a couple semesters off from Mass Bay Community College to work at a clothing retailer, but it went bankrupt during the pandemic.

"I gave my resignation, did my two weeks. I quit. I went on social media. I was like 'Does anyone need a tutor?'"

She tutored and then went back to Mass Bay full-time to study computer science. She also now works at the college.

"I definitely think the pandemic kind of made me look and say 'I deserve better. I can do better,'" Machuca said.

The stats will say people quit. But these three will tell you they didn't quit; they just chose happiness.

There was a new study that came out Monday which said a majority of people who left their job for a new one during the pandemic ended up regretting it. But these three workers seem very happy with their choices.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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