Oct 13, 2021 - Economy

Record number of U.S. workers quit their jobs in August

Chart showing monthly job quits as a share of total employment
Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

New government jobs data released Tuesday helps paint a clearer picture of the impact the Delta variant had on the stalled jobs recovery in August. In a nutshell, more people quit their jobs, and companies pulled back on job openings.

Why it matters: The number of new jobs created in August (366,000) was a stark slowdown from July’s 1 million — and a reality check for investors and economists.

  • This week's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) report puts meat on the bones of how that played out.

By the numbers: The rate of quits increased to its highest level ever, at 2.9% of the workforce.

  • Layoffs remained at record lows as companies tried to hold on to employees — but notably, they pulled back on new job openings.
  • Total job openings receded to 10.4 million, from a record high 11 million in July.

Go deeper: In leisure and hospitality, one of the sectors most impacted by the Delta variant, the pullback was pronounced.

  • Quit rates there were more than double the overall average. And employers cut back on job openings by 10.5%, twice the 5% retreat across all industries.

The bottom line: "The tepid employment growth we have seen in recent months has been at least partially the result of a decline in hiring appetite. The question is whether this is a temporary speed bump due to a surge in COVID cases or if demand will continue to slacken in the months ahead," wrote Indeed Hiring Lab's Nick Bunker in a research note.

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