Bad Jobs? 7 Jobs With the Highest Turnover Rates

Michael Scott celebrates with his receptionist on NBC's The Office
Michael Scott celebrates with his receptionist on NBC’s The Office | NBC

Some jobs make you want to pull your hair out. Some jobs make you want to pull other people’s hair out — or their heads off. And some jobs are best left to the robots; or those who are desperate enough to need to take them. A sure sign that an industry or job is toxic, though, is to look at how quickly people quit. Turnover and burnout rates are a very strong indicator of job stability and toxicity, so if you’re looking for a career that can sustain you for the long haul, taking a brief look at these factors is worth the effort.
Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics incorporates data about labor turnover in its monthly reports, which jobs and industries that are specifically plagued by high turnover rates is better gathered from those “on the ground,” or in the HR and recruiting fields. These are the people who are in charge of hiring and recruiting new employees, and in industries in which holding on to employees is difficult, they know first-hand how problematic a high turnover can be.
In short, these are jobs for people who are looking for seasonal work, often. That may include students, or folks with a certain skill set suited toward specific activities — like ski instructors, for example. Or, some of these jobs are great for people with a “mercenary” type attitude, or those who are willing to follow the money from job to job, industry to industry — like those with sales skills.
For better or worse, these are jobs with high turnover rates. That doesn’t mean these are bad jobs, by any means. But if you’re looking to get into the industry, just know that they tend to burn people out fairly quickly, for one reason or another.

1. Retail

Black Friday shoppers bumrush retail stores
Black Friday shoppers bumrush retail stores | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Retail is as toxic as it gets. Retail workers are paid poorly, put with untold amounts of nonsense and abuse from customers, and generally don’t walk away from the job with much more than when they started — except maybe some new tactics for dealing with irate people, and a shattered sense of self-respect. But there are plenty of good people working in retail, the problem is that they don’t usually last long. Some measures put the turnover rate in retail at 67%.

2. Food service

Servers working in a restaurant
Servers working in a restaurant | Thinkstock

Food service is one of those jobs that pays the bills, but slowly eats away at you until you’re a stressed, often broke, mess. Some people manage to stick with it for the long term, and land in management. Others make drinks, serve tables, cook, and more for career-long durations. Those are rare cases. The turnover rate in the food industry has been pegged at 62.6%.

3. Information Technology

A tablet displays business information
A tablet displays business information | Thinkstock

Surprisingly enough, there’s a fairly high turnover rate in IT. Many companies ask a lot of employees, which can cause them to burn out and look for opportunities elsewhere. Long hours, and some of the horror stories coming out of places like Amazon, are evidence. A look at the average work tenure at some of the nation’s largest tech firms shows that many employees last less than a year and a half.

4. Nurses

A nurse prepared to get dirty
A nurse prepared to get dirty | Thinkstock

Nursing is an expanding career field, and one that generally pays pretty well. But it can be unpredictable, require long hours, and take a toll on your personal life. For those reasons, there is an unexpectedly high turnover rate among nurses, with roughly 18% of them leaving their first jobs within a year. Over three years? The turnover rate is 43%.

5. Child care

Children feeding their father breakfast
Children feeding their father breakfast | iStock

Dealing with kids is tough, as any parent can tell you. But if you’re a parent, and you have a job, you rely on child care workers to ensure the safety of your little ones. That, in and of itself, is a very challenging gig. Child care workers can’t let their attention lapse for even a second, and have a very high level of patience and tolerance for vomit. Annual turnover rates at many daycare and child care centers is as high as 30%.

6. Hospitality

grand budapest hotel
Cast of The Grand Budapest Hotel | Source: American Empirical Pictures

Hospitality jobs are much in the same vein as jobs in the food industry or retail — you’re often dealing with large amounts of people, you’re often paid little, and the hours can be long and fairly stressful. That doesn’t mean that they’re not good jobs, once again. But hospitality gigs are usually revolving doors of sorts, with turnover rates measured between 31% and 34% being the norm.

7. Sales

A car salesman shows a customer vehicles
A car salesman shows a customer vehicles | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Salespeople are often thought of as mercenaries, in a sense. If you can sell, it’s a gift — and a skill you can make work in any number of ways. If you can sell a copier, you can probably sell a car, or a yacht, or airtime on a television station. And there’s money to be made all over the place, so sales specialists tend to go where they can earn the most. It varies from industry to industry, but one example of how high turnover can be is in car sales; some dealerships have a turnover rate as high as 66% year over year.
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