US: Number of Workers Quitting Their Jobs Hits New Record

4.3 million people, nearly 3% of the workforce, in the US have quit their jobs in August.

  • Almost 2 in 5 workers who quit in August worked in retail or in restaurants and hotels
    Almost 2 in 5 workers who quit in August worked in retail or in restaurants and hotels

The US is facing an imminent issue that will take a toll on its economy; more and more people are quitting their jobs, surging to record highs. This mass migration from jobs is pushed by a combination of factors that include US people sensing ample opportunity and seeking better pay elsewhere.

In August, around 4.3 million people quit their jobs; about 2.9% of the workforce, according to new data released on Tuesday from the Labor Department. Those numbers beat the previous record, set in April, of about 4 million people quitting, reflecting how the pandemic has affected the workers’ choices about their jobs and lives.

The phenomenon is partly caused by workers less willing to bear inconvenient hours and poor compensation, thus quitting instead of finding better opportunities.

The implications of this shift could be long-lasting, and both workers and employers are reassessing their approaches amid a continually evolving public health threat.

Many businesses consider this new dynamic challenging as they struggle to retain employees and find qualified candidates for open positions. 

Some businesses have employed solutions that other businesses do not favor; increasing pay and compensation.

Quit jobs in numbers

These changes are happening rapidly. The Labor Department data shows that about 892,000 workers in restaurants, bars, and hotels quit in August, as well as 721,000 workers in retail. An additional 706,000 employees in professional business services and 534,000 workers in health care and social assistance also left jobs.

Almost 2 in 5 workers; i.e. 38% who quit in August worked in retail or in restaurants and hotels. Quitting rate in manufacturing is lower than in low-pay service sectors, at 2%.

The pandemic leaves a trail of destruction behind

The large number of people quitting their jobs was mainly due to people taking other positions, although the data does not specify why people are leaving and where they are ending up.

The pandemic left its toll on the labor market in the US. In March and April 2020, more than 20 million workers lost their jobs, and at one point, more than 1 million workers got fired each day because companies were suffering and shut down with the crashing economy. 

However, the jobless rate has improved since the spring of 2020, but leverage shifted from employers to employees as the pandemic helped draw attention to the plight of low-wage workers. 

There are a number of other factors that workers are weighing, including health concerns amid the rise of the Coronavirus delta variant, as well as uneven access to child care.

The Labor Department data adds more context to a surprising aspect of the pandemic: Workers are emerging with more choices as many employers say they are struggling to staff up.