Americans quit their jobs in extremely high numbers in October, data from the Labor Department showed Wednesday.

The total number of workers who quit their jobs in October was 4.2 million, the third-highest on record. The record high was the previous month, when 4.4 million quit. In August, 4.3 million Americans quit jobs.

The figures come from the Labor Department’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Quits are defined as a worker voluntarily leaving a job. These have been at historically elevated levels since this summer.

Economists are not quite sure why the high quits phenomenon, which has been dubbed the Great Resignation, is taking place. Competition for workers among employers has heated up, making it easier for a worker to quit with confidence that a better job awaits.  Some Americans may also be leaving jobs that require vaccinations or masks or are perceived as posing a higher risk of Covid-infection.

Quits in accommodation and food services fell to 803,000, from 838,000 a month earlier. This is the third-highest level of quits for this sector. The record high was hit in August at 867,000. Six percent of workers in the sector quit their jobs in October, the fourth-highest rate on record and nearly two percentage points above the long-term average.

 

Job openings continued to climb even while hiring remained flat. Openings rose by 431,000 to 11 million, a record high. Openings in restaurants and hotels rose by 254,000 to 1.6 million, the second-highest on record after 1.7 million.

Hires were more or less unchanged at 6.5 million.

The unusually high level of quits may contribute to the renewed sense of urgency among Fed officials to tighten monetary policy. It indicates that the labor market remains tight and could contribute to higher inflation. The high level of quits could also exacerbate shortages in the economy and supply chain problems.

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