By Jeffry Bartash and Greg Robb
The numbers: “The Great Resignation” slowed down in October, but lots of people are still switching or leaving their jobs: Some 4.2 million Americans quit in the month.
So far this year almost 39 million people have quit their jobs, including a record 4.4 million in September. These figures likely include people who have quit more than one position.
Whatever the case, the number of people quitting in 2021 is likely to set a new record if worker leave jobs in the final two months of the year at similarly high levels.
The chief reason people are quitting is because they are finding better or better-paying jobs. Job openings rose to 11 million in October, the U.S. Labor Department said Wednesday. That’s the second highest level on record.
Companies have boosted wages and benefits to attract or retain workers amid the biggest labor shortage in decades. Average hourly wage rose by 4.8% in the 12 months ended in November, one of the highest rates of increase ever.
Even so, the number of people companies were able to hire slipped in October to 6.46 million from 6.55 million a month earlier.
Key details: The so-called quit rate for government and private-sector workers dipped to 2.8% in October from a record 3%. The decline came after three straight months of all-time highs.
The number of job openings across the country rose to 11 million in October from 10.6 million in the prior month. That’s just short of a record 11.1 million in July.
Job openings rose at hotels, restaurants, manufacturing and education. State and local governments had fewer job openings.
Big picture: More people tend to quit when the economy is doing well or they think they can find a better job. That largely explains the huge increase in people leaving their jobs this year.
At the same time, a number of people have retired earlier than expected and others left the workforce over pandemic-related issues. Some worry about catching the virus and others are taking care of younger or older family members.
The record and surprising wave of people quitting has become popularly known as “The Great Resignation.”
Many companies complain they cannot find enough workers to keep production going at full tilt and take advantage of strong demand for their goods and services. To make matters worse, millions of people who had jobs before the pandemic still haven’t returned to work.
What they are saying? “Under normal circumstances, a near record number of job openings would be something worth celebrating,” said senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets. “But no employer is in a celebratory mood. It is difficult to fill orders or meet customer demands if there are not enough people to do the actual work.”
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW:DJIA) and the S&P 500 (S&P:SPX) were up slightly in early trading on Wednesday on hopes the omicron variant would not derail the global economy.