Job Openings
A sign in the parking lot of Mariano's grocery store advertises the availability of jobs Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in Chicago. One reason America’s employers are having trouble filling jobs was starkly illustrated in a report Tuesday, Oct. 12: Americans are quitting in droves. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
business

Americans quit their jobs at a record pace in August

14 Comments
By CHRISTOPHER RUGABER

One reason America's employers are having trouble filling jobs was starkly illustrated in a report Tuesday: Americans are quitting in droves.

The Labor Department said that quits jumped to 4.3 million in August, the highest on records dating back to December 2000, and up from 4 million in July. That's equivalent to nearly 3% of the workforce. Hiring also slowed in August, the report showed, and the number of jobs available fell to 10.4 million, from a record high of 11.1 million the previous month.

The data helps fill in a puzzle that is looming over the job market: Hiring slowed sharply in August and September, even as the number of posted jobs was near record levels. In the past year, open jobs have increased 62%. Yet overall hiring, as measured by Tuesday's report, has actually declined slightly during that time.

The jump in quits strongly suggests that fear of the delta variant is partly responsible for the shortfall in workers. In addition to driving quits, fear of the disease probably caused plenty of those out of work to not look for, or take, jobs.

As COVID-19 cases surged in August, quits soared in restaurants and hotels from the previous month and rose in other public-facing jobs, such as retail and education. Nearly 900,000 people left jobs at restaurants, bars, and hotels in August, up 21% from July. Quits by retail workers rose 6%.

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.

Other factors also likely contributed to the jump in quits. With many employers desperate for workers and wages rising at a healthy pace, workers have a much greater ability to demand higher pay, or go elsewhere to find it.

The data from August is probably too early to reflect the impact of vaccine mandates. President Joe Biden's mandate was not announced until Sept 9. United Airlines announced its mandate in early August, but it was one of the first companies to do so. And layoffs were unchanged in August, the report found.

The government said Friday 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% from 5.2%. Friday's hiring figure is a net total, after quits, retirements, and layoffs are taken into account. Tuesday's report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, 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,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, in an email. “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."

Quits also rose the most in the South and Midwest, the government said, the two regions with the worst COVID outbreaks in August.

When workers quit, it is typically seen as a good sign for the job market, because people usually leave jobs when they already have other positions or are confident they can find one. The large increase in August probably does reflect some of that confidence among workers.

But the fact that the increase in quits was heavily concentrated in sectors that involve close contact with the public is a sign that fear of COVID also played a large role. Many people may have quit even without other jobs to take.

The sharp increase in job openings also has an international dimension: Job vacancies have reached a record level in the United Kingdom, though that is partly because many European workers left the UK after Brexit.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments
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This doesn't look good. We know the economy is headed to the toilet, and I don't see a rosy future for job-seekers. Many quit their hospitality jobs because of Covid. The money and work hours dropped drastically, while government benefits rose. What happens when the government stops sending checks?

Even without Covid, the writing is on the wall. Employees will earn less and less, unless they have in-demand skills. Look at Amazon warehouse conditions. Look at China. US workers will continue to compete with cheap overseas labor (the gap is narrowing, with developing countries catching up and the US falling into developing country status). On top of the, we have AI and robots.

If people are quitting their jobs at record pace, they are having one last hurrah before reality hits. There is still a little time to sock away some money.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Today I saw a post from a friend to a technical list with over 2000 people saying they had job openings. They'd used the "normal methods" beginning two weeks ago and had ZERO responses.

I'm tempted to begin a conversation with a potential employer, though I don't need to work. For the last 20+ yrs, most of my income has come from market investments, not salary. Not sure I would ever go back to a full-time job, but perhaps a 3/4 time job, working from home (anywhere) 100% could be workable for some employers?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

As COVID-19 cases surged in August, quits soared in restaurants and hotels

Since when has "quit" become a noun? Why don't they correctly write it as "quitting"? I felt like I was reading one of my 3rd grader's papers.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

My experience is that HR makes the hiring process so exhausting that many applicants give up.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Speed: I thought I was the only one that noticed the strange use of QUITS a dozen times. So I quits reading ! Lol

3 ( +5 / -2 )

".....As COVID-19 cases surged in August, quits soared in restaurants and hotels from the previous month and rose in other public-facing jobs, such as retail and education. Nearly 900,000 people left jobs at restaurants, bars, and hotels in August, up 21% from July. Quits by retail workers rose 6%.

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...."

In low paid service jobs, quits soared but in better paid industry/career jobs there was little change......so perhaps more to do with the low paid nature of these service jobs with covid thrown in rather than just based upon covid.....maybe increase wages and make it more attractive? Especially in jobs such a waitressing and bartending that largely rely on tips in the US to actually make money, maybe the onus to fairly emburse workers should switch to the employer of such workers rather than relying on the good will of customers...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The Great Resignation, has been happening in other economies too.

Companies feel that there's a lot of people out there looking for work, so they're not looking after the people they have currently, as well as they should.

Also companies, have not done well in keeping people engaged, who work remotely.

Finally, many well paid execs, have not stepped up and earned their keep. It's middle managers and frontline staff that have upped their game.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It isn't that hard, pay employees a fair wage for their labour and they are more willing to work. If people are quitting and new hires aren't coming in, the problem is probably something you are doing. At the very least try offering more money.

Yet I see news reports of more and more employers trying to hire younger staff instead. Banners saying they are hiring 15 or 16 year olds now. Anything to avoid paying people what they are worth.

Then it is all "People don't want to work these days anymore!".

2 ( +3 / -1 )

With Biden running the show, the simple fact is for low-skilled people, it now PAYS to NOT work.

You don't have to pay rent. Unemployment extended and extended. No job: don't have pay for insurance! Hand out here, hand out there...funny how these people have never heard of the aphorism "give a person a fish, and they'll eat for just today...but teach them how to fish and they'll eat forever."

Nah, more moves can be won by giving out fish, day after day...or maybe it's Bread and Circuses now?

Try it! Millions are already. They're not much worse off, and they have a lot more time on their hands to spend their (massively increased) EBT money in shops now.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The economy has really slowed since January. What changed?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Only 3% of current debt is from Biden.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Since when has "quit" become a noun?

It is an industry shorthand term for the measure of workers leaving their jobs in a given period of time. One "quit" = one worker leaving their current job. In that context it is a legitimate noun.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Companies feel that there's a lot of people out there looking for work, so they're not looking after the people they have currently, as well as they should.

Quite the opposite. Employers have more jobs available than qualified takers. The situation is more like employees are finding there are better jobs (better for a variety of reasons not just pay) among the hundreds of thousands currently going unfilled and leaving their current job for one better suited to them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The economy has really slowed since January. What changed?

Another wave of Covid-19.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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