A record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September

Number represents 3 per cent of US workforce, a figure not seen since 2000

The Labour Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed on Friday that about 4.4 million Americans had quit their jobs in September, highlighting how persistent churn is undercutting employers’ efforts to fill a near record level of vacancies.

Meanwhile, the number of available positions eased to 10.4 million.

Incentivised by record wage gains and other attractive terms offered by employers desperate for talent, Americans are leaving their jobs in droves. That has made it even more challenging for employers to fill positions while also driving up compensation and inflation.

The quits rate, or the number of quits in the month as a per cent of total employment, increased to 3 per cent in September, a figure not seen since 2000.

Quits increased across several industries, notably in arts, entertainment and recreation, as well as state and local government and education. The number of people who quit their jobs in the leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and healthcare sectors rose to record highs, which occurs on the heels of the US recently lifting its Covid-related travel restrictions and seizures in the supply chain.

Total hires were little changed in September at 6.5 million, driven by strength in health care and social assistance. The hires rate was unchanged at 4.4 per cent while layoffs and discharges were little changed at 1.4 million.

A separate report out on Friday showed US consumer sentiment fell to a decade low in early November, reflecting growing fears of the impact of inflation on finances.

The latest jobs report — which showed employers had some success filling openings as the Delta variant faded — also highlighted a stubbornly low participation rate, indicating hiring challenges are not going away anytime soon.

Recent survey data suggest the same. A quarter of US workers are considering a job change or retirement in the next 12 to 18 months, pointing to further churn in the labour market.

There are, however, some nascent signs of improvement. Some 49 per cent of small-businesses owners said they had vacant positions they could not fill in October — still historically high, but down slightly from a high of 51 per cent in the previous month, data from the National Federation of Independent Business show.

The survey also showed a record share of owners not only raised compensation but are planning to do so in coming months.

For every unemployed American in September, there were 1.4 openings. While labour mismatches persist, workers remain optimistic about their future income and job prospects. In the Conference Board’s October survey, the share of those who said jobs were “plentiful” held near a record high.

The survey figures trail the government’s monthly jobs data. The October employment report, out last week, showed payrolls rose 531,000 from the prior month after large upwards revisions to the August and September data. The advance, which beat economists’ forecasts, was the largest since July.

Updated: November 12th 2021, 5:25 PM
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