More than 4 million Americans have quit their jobs every month for the last six months. The startling new tradition raises the question: Is the so-called Great Resignation still a short-term trend, or simply the new normal?
The U.S. economy reached just over 4 million quits in July and hasn’t stopped since. About 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9% of workers, quit their jobs in December, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover report released Tuesday. That’s down by about 161,000 resignations from November, when the quit rate hit the highest level recorded by the BLS since the survey launched in 2000.
Quits were up in almost every sector in December, but industries like manufacturing, as well as leisure and hospitality—both of which have seen huge consumer demand—are leading the way, according to Nick Bunker, economic research director for North America at the Indeed Hiring Lab.
Those sectors, along with mining and wholesale trade, have had a more difficult time hiring.
“Wonder why nominal wage growth is so strong? Employers are having a harder time hiring workers and keeping the ones they have,” Bunker says.
But Americans aren’t just walking away from their jobs, never to return. Although they are leaving their jobs at rapid rates, the overall number of hires continued to outpace quits, with 6.3 million American workers starting new jobs last month. That’s down slightly from November by about 333,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Both quits and openings fell in December compared with November despite Omicron, yet they’re still elevated compared to pre-pandemic.
“This is a reminder that in part, the Great Resignation can be easily explained by the tight job market, where more job opportunities for workers means more turnover,” writes Daniel Zhao, senior economist on Glassdoor's economic research team.
In fact, the jobs picture was “little changed” in December, as employers were left with 10.9 million open jobs at the end of the year as Omicron cases started to surge in the U.S., according to the BLS.
“Even though Omicron is pushing COVID to record levels, employers are hoping that the wave will be temporary and are keeping jobs open for when the wave recedes,” Zhao says.
The slight rise in job openings was concentrated in sectors such as accommodation and food services, despite the impact of Omicron, Zhao says.
But there are still more jobs than workers, something that’s remained a consistent trend. Excluding temporary layoffs, there were nearly two job openings per unemployed worker in December. This speaks to the “scale of the mismatch” in the job market, Zhao says, noting there were 4.6 million more job openings than unemployed workers in December.
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