Changed by pandemic, many workers won't return to old jobs

Nate Mullins, a former bartender from Oak, Harbor, Wash., who quit his job last November after clashing with managers over enforcing mask rules, poses for a photo near a street mural Monday, May 17, 2021, in Mount Vernon, Wash. There's a wild card in the push to return to post-pandemic life: many workers don't want to return to the jobs they once had. Mullins' unemployment checks don't match what he was making at the bar, but they're enough to get by while he looks for jobs that would provide health care and retirement benefits. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

There's a wild card in the push to return to pre-pandemic life: Many workers don't want to go back to the jobs they once had.

Layoffs and lockdowns, combined with enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, gave many Americans the time and the financial cushion to rethink their careers. Their former employers are hiring again - and some, like Uber and McDonald's, are offering higher pay - but workers remain hesitant.

In March, U.S. job openings rose 8% to a record 8.1 million, but overall hiring rose less than 4%, according to government data.

Nate Mullins quit his job as a bartender last November after clashing with managers over mask rules and worrying that he would spread the coronavirus to his immune-compromised sister.

Mullins' unemployment checks don't match what he was making at his Oak Harbor, Washington bar, but they're enough to get by while he looks for jobs that would provide health care and retirement benefits.

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