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Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics via FRED, Axios calculations; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Sometimes companies fire workers. Other times workers fire companies — and that's what happened to a stunning degree in 2021.

Driving the news: Government data published Tuesday showed that a record-high 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November.

  • The flip side of that is that employers were not firing people. Only 1.37 million workers were laid off or otherwise discharged, well below levels in the strong pre-pandemic economy.

Why it matters: Right now, employers are loath to dismiss their workers, knowing how hard it will be to replace them. That tilts the job market toward labor.

A different way to capture who has the power in the job market is to look at the ratio of people who quit their job to those who were discharged involuntarily. Aaron Sojourner, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota, calls this the "labor leverage ratio."

  • This ratio hit an extraordinary 3.31 in November, higher than it has been in the two decades of government data. Translation: More than three times as many workers quit their job as were fired.

The big picture: Even in previous strong job markets, this measure never reached anywhere close to these levels. It had only exceeded 2 for three months in early 2019. In the booming job market of December 2000, it was a mere 1.43.

  • "I like building the measure around job separations, a high-stakes, cleanly-measured concept," Sojourner tells Axios. "When workers' outside options improve, quits rise. When employers' improve, discharges rise. When workers' improve faster than employers', the ratio rises."

The bottom line: The Great Resignation is real and ongoing — and the flip side is employers doing everything they can to hold on to their workers.

Go deeper: CEOs join the Great Resignation

Go deeper

NYC to require employers to specify salary ranges

Photo: Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

New York City became the latest jurisdiction to tackle wage inequality on Saturday, with employers required to include specific salary ranges beginning in April, CNN reports.

The big picture: States such as Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, Rhode Island and more have all enacted legislation that requires employers to include specific salary ranges on job postings.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.

Colleyville Rabbi credits survival to active-shooter training

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the people taken hostage in a synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, said in an interview with CBS Monday that he initially took in the man because he thought he needed shelter.

The big picture: Cytron-Walker said he spoke to the hostage taker, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, for several minutes and made him tea before Akram took the rabbi and three other people hostage during Shabbat services for around 11 hours in Colleyville, Texas.