The number of workers who quit their jobs in September rose to a record high for the third month in a row, making it harder for companies to maintain staff levels during the worst labor shortage in decades.
Some 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September, the government said Friday. By contrast, just half as many had quit during the early stages of the pandemic.
Put another way, 3% of the labor force quit in September. That’s also the highest level since the government began keeping track in 2000.
Before the pandemic the so-called quit rate was fairly steady at about 2.3%.
People usually quit when the economy is doing well or they think they can find a better job. They tend to stay put when the economy is bad.
The vast majority of people quitting are finding other jobs. Companies hired 6.5 million people in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
Including layoffs, retirements and deaths, some 6.2 million left their job in September.
Several million people have retired during the pandemic, for one thing. And the latest flare up of the coronavirus via the delta variant caused more people to quit and leave the jobs market either temporarily or permanently.
In September and August, for instance, the number of people working in leisure and hospitality who quit topped one million for two months in a row for the first time ever. These jobs at restaurants, hotels, theaters and so forth put workers directly in contact with customers and make them more susceptible to catching the virus.
“Quits are up the most in sectors where most work is in-person or relatively low paying,” said Nick Bunker, Indeed Hiring Lab director of economic research.
The lack of available workers is weighing heavily on businesses desperate to hire people in an effort to keep up with the crush of demand for their goods and services.
Some 10.4 million jobs were open in September, just slightly below an all-time high set in July.
Some companies have even had to scale back production or hours because they cannot obtain enough labor. Millions of people who had jobs before the pandemic still haven’t returned to work.
“Businesses are still struggling to hire due to the greatly reduced pool of available workers,” said senior U.S. economist Lydia Boussour of Oxford Economics.
Broad shortages or labor and supplies are holding back the U.S. recovery and threatening a broader slowdown unless they relent. Economists predict more people will return to work once the pandemic fades and fewer will quit, but the labor shortage is unlikely to end anytime soon.