A sign in the parking lot of the Mariano grocery store announces job availability on Friday, October 8, 2021 in Chicago. One of the reasons American employers struggle to fill positions was clearly illustrated in a report on Tuesday, October 12: Americans are quitting en masse.

AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast

WASHINGTON (AP) – One of the reasons American employers struggle to fill positions was clearly illustrated in a report on Tuesday: Americans are quitting en masse.

The The Ministry of Labor said the number of dropouts jumped to 4.3 million in August, the highest record in December 2000, and from 4 million in July. This equates to almost 3% of the workforce. Hiring also slowed in August, according to the report, and the number of available jobs fell to 10.4 million, from a record 11.1 million the previous month.

Data helps fill a puzzle hanging over the job market: Hiring slowed sharply in August and September, even as the number of job offers was close to record highs. Over the past year, open jobs have increased 62%. Still, overall hiring, as measured by Tuesday’s report, actually declined slightly over that time frame.

The jump in departures strongly suggests that fear of the delta variant is partly responsible for the shortage of workers. In addition to work stoppages, fear of illness has probably caused many unemployed people not to seek or accept employment.

As COVID-19 cases increased in August, resignations skyrocketed in restaurants and hotels from the previous month and increased in other public jobs, such as retail and education. Nearly 900,000 people left their jobs in restaurants, bars and hotels in August, up 21% from July. Departures of retail workers increased 6%.

Yet in sectors such as manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing, departures have barely increased. In professional and business services, which include areas such as law, engineering and architecture, where most employees can work from home, quits have been largely stable.

Other factors have also probably contributed to the increase in resignations. While many employers are desperate for workers and wages are rising at a healthy rate, workers have a much greater ability to demand higher wages or to go elsewhere to find it.

Data for August is probably too early to reflect the impact of immunization mandates. President Joe Biden’s tenure was only announced on September 9. United Airlines announced his mandate in early August, but this was one of the first companies to do so. And layoffs remained unchanged in August, according to the report.

The government said on Friday that job gains were weak for a second straight month in September, with just 194,000 jobs added, although the unemployment rate fell to 4.8% from 5.2%. Friday’s hiring figure is a net total, after factoring in resignations, retirements and layoffs. Tuesday’s report, known as the Job Openings and Workforce Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, includes raw numbers and shows total hires in August fell sharply, to 6.3 million against 6.8 million in July.

The data “highlights the immense problems facing businesses,” Jennifer Lee, economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in an email. “Not enough people. Not enough equipment and / or parts. During this time, customers either wait for their orders or wait to place their orders. What a strange world this is. “

Departures have also increased the most in the South and Midwest, the government said, with the two regions experiencing the worst COVID outbreaks in August.

When workers leave, this is generally seen as a good sign for the job market, as people typically leave their jobs when they already have other positions or are confident they can find one. The sharp increase in August probably reflects some of that confidence among workers.

But the fact that the increase in quits has been heavily concentrated in sectors involving close contact with the public is a sign that fear of COVID has also played a significant role. Many people may have quit even without another job to take.

The sharp increase in job vacancies also has an international dimension: UK job vacancies hit record highs, although this is in part due to the fact that many European workers left the UK after Brexit.


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