Americans quit their jobs at a record pace in November as job openings approached their all-time highs, a sign that workers continued to maintain most of the leverage before the omicron variant triggered COVID cases. -19.
The number of workers who quit their jobs soared to 4.6 million from 4.2 million, up from the previous record of 4.4 million reached in September, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That means 3% of workers voluntarily left their jobs, matching September’s record.
Employers posted 10.6 million jobs, down from a near-record 11 million the previous month and just below the all-time high in July, Labor said in its Survey of Jobs and Job Rotation. Vacancies have exceeded 10 million for six consecutive months.
Given that there were 6.9 million unemployed Americans in November, that means there were 1.5 jobs available for every unemployed person, the highest number on record dating back to two decades.
The number of hires rose to 6.7 million from 6.5 million in a possible sign that employers’ struggle to find workers eased somewhat as some Americans returned to the workforce.
A confluence of forces has left the workers with most of the bargaining power.
Consumer demand has increased as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic-induced recession and government shutdowns, pushing openings to record levels.
Meanwhile, many Americans remain on the sidelines, squeezing the labor supply. Some parents continue to care for young children because they cannot find or pay for child care. Other people fear contracting COVID-19, especially with the appearance of omicron, a more infectious but milder variant.
And many people can postpone their return to the workforce because they still live on government stimulus checks or the generous unemployment benefits they were awarded earlier during the health crisis.
Many employers, in turn, are raising wages and offering signing bonuses and other perks to entice workers at other companies to jump ship.
Employees are doing it in record numbers to take advantage of the abundance of job openings and higher salaries.
In November, job losses jumped from 761,000 the month before to 920,000 in restaurants and hotels, the industry hardest hit by job losses and worker shortages during the health crisis. Dropouts increased from 606,000 to 660,000 in education and health services; from 953,000 to 996,000 in commerce, transportation and public services; from 113,000 to 154,000 in financial activities; and from 730,000 to 798,000 in professional and business services.
The balance of power could shift slightly in 2022. The supply of workers is likely to grow as the health crisis subsides and Americans marginalized by COVID or childcare tasks resume their job search, says economist Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics.
Also, consumer demand could soften modestly after the economy has fully reopened, moderating the number of job openings, Indeed, a top job site, said in a report.
Other changes could be more durable. Most of the 5 million people who have left the workforce since the onset of the pandemic are over 55 years old and have retired, early or naturally, says Goldman Sachs. Others are shifting careers or industries, for example, from restaurants and hotels to technology and warehousing, leaving some sectors with many openings and fewer candidates to fill them.
The result: The worker shortage is likely to persist but ease a bit this year, Bostjancic says. As a result, job vacancies and resignations could fall further from their peaks, but remain elevated.
“The near-term outlook for the job market suggests that workers are likely to continue to have considerable bargaining power in 2022,” Indeed says in its report.
A closer look at why workers are quitting:
Fifty-four percent of workers surveyed by ZipRecruiter in September said they preferred a job that allowed them to work from home. Only about 10% of jobs offer that option, although that’s a 3% increase before the pandemic, says ZipRecruiter chief economist Julia Pollak.
Many employees, in turn, are leaving jobs that require them to work in offices, says Jim McCoy, senior vice president of talent solutions at ManpowerGroup.
That could eventually spur more companies to allow remote working, Pollak says.
Upset with COVID-19 work experience
Nineteen percent of workers said they are unhappy with the way employers treated them during the pandemic. This could include those who were burned out after being forced to work long hours while their colleagues were away or are in stressful industries like healthcare.
Twenty percent of the workers surveyed by Joblist quit their jobs to pursue new careers and their passions.
Many restaurant and retail workers, in particular, grew weary of the low wages and health risks that came with their jobs. I
About 25% of hotel industry workers surveyed by Joblist said they would not want to work in the industry again.
And 20% of all workers say the pandemic caused them to change the type of role they were seeking to one that would allow them to work remotely, a ZipRecruiter survey shows.
Thirteen percent of workers quit because their jobs did not provide a work-life balance, the Joblist survey reveals.
Starting your own business
A third of workers quit their jobs to start businesses, a Digital.com survey shows.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism