US workers are quitting their jobs at record rates, as the number of job openings across the country remains near record highs, new federal data shows.
Voluntary resignations jumped to 4.3 million in August, the highest on records dating back to December 2000, and up from 4 million in July, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, on Tuesday.
That’s equivalent to nearly 3 percent of the workforce walking out on their jobs in a trend some have dubbed ‘the Great Resignation’.
Hiring also slowed in August, the report showed, and the number of jobs available fell slightly to 10.4 million, from a record high of 11.1 million the previous month.
The number of jobs available fell slightly to 10.4 million in August, from a record high of 11.1 million the previous month
Job vacancy rates remain high in many industries including restaurants (pink) and transportation (orange) as employers
Resignations in August rose the most in increased in hotels and restaurants (+157,000), wholesale trade (+26,000), and public education (+25,000).
Yet in industries such as manufacturing, construction, and transportation and warehousing, quits barely increased.
In professional and business services, which includes fields such as law, engineering, and architecture, where most employees can work from home, quitting was largely flat.
The number and rate of layoffs and discharges were little changed from July, at 1.3 million and 0.9 percent, respectively.
The new data show that the number of open jobs in the country continues to exceed the number of people seeking work, increasing the bargaining power of workers and giving them more confidence to quit unpleasant jobs.
The data from August are probably too early to reflect the impact of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates, which were not announced until September 9.
Workers at a Nebraska Burger King announced their mass resignation on a sign earlier this year. Workers are quitting their jobs at record rates
But millions have dropped out of the labor force since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, for reasons that include early retirement, seeking new training for a career change, and remaining at home as a caregiver.
Unemployment figures released on Friday showed that the labor force participation rate remained 1.7 percentage points lower than in February 2020.
There were 7.7 million unemployed jobseekers in September, less than the total number of openings.
It all adds up to a dire labor shortage that has forced many businesses to scale back hours or services, and threatens economic growth by disrupting supply chains.
‘With open jobs exceeding the number of people looking for work by over 2.7 million, the workforce shortage is the single most significant threat to America’s economic recovery,’ said US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark in a statement.
‘Coupled with Friday’s disappointing employment figures, this is yet another reminder that the recovery remains very fragile,’ she added.
‘Congress should drop the multi-trillion dollar tax and spend proposals that would further undermine the economy and focus on getting Americans back to work and helping employers fill open jobs,’ Clark said, referring to deadlock among Democrats over Biden’s $3.5 trillion social and climate spending plans.
A pedestrian walks by a now hiring sign at a Lamps Plus store on September 16 in San Francisco, California. There were 7.7 million unemployed jobseekers in September, less than the total number of openings
Applicants take part in a job fair at a Post Office in Los Angeles, California on September 30, as the US Postal Service looks to fill 40,000 seasonal-worker positions for the holidays
Over the 12 months ending in August 2021, US hires totaled 72.6 million and separations totaled 66.7 million, yielding a net employment gain of 5.9 million.
However, there are still about 5 million fewer people working today than there were in February 2020.
Friday’s employment report showed that job gains were weak for a second straight month in September, with only 194,000 jobs added, though the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent from 5.2 percent, in part reflecting dropouts from the labor force.
Friday’s hiring figure is a net total, after quits, retirements, and layoffs are taken into account. Tuesday’s JOLTS report includes raw figures, and showed that total hiring in August fell sharply, to 6.3 million from 6.8 million in July.
The data is ‘highlighting the immense problems businesses are dealing with,’ Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, told the AP.
‘Not enough people. Not enough equipment and/or parts. Meantime, customers are waiting for their orders, or waiting to place their orders. What a strange world this is,’ Lee added.
The sharp increase in job openings is also playing out in other advanced economies.
Job vacancies have reached a record level in the United Kingdom, though that is partly attributed to European workers leaving the UK after Brexit.
Job openings in Australia also remain near record highs, up nearly 50 percent from February 2020 levels.