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Florida residents attend a job fair at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in May. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Never have so few people been let go by employers, according to closely watched jobs data out Wednesday. Put another way: Companies are holding onto staff for dear life.

Why it matters: It's another sign of the American worker's newfound leverage, ushered in by businesses' desperation for workers to meet the demand of the economic snapback.

  • "Demand is high and employers might not be getting the number of hires that they want — so they're holding on to the workers they do have," says Indeed's Nick Bunker.

By the numbers: The layoffs and discharge rate fell to 0.9% in May — a new record low dating back to 2001.

  • That means for every 1,000 workers, about nine were let go.
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics via FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The massive shift for workers is particularly notable in the accommodations and food services sector, where labor shortage complaints have been most acute.

  • That rate of layoffs and discharges fell to 1.2% from 1.5% in a single month.
  • It's down from 2% in January — and almost a full percentage point below the same period a year ago.

The big picture: The number of open jobs ticked higher to 9.2 million, the second straight record-breaking month.

The bottom line: Workers leaving their jobs mostly aren't getting fired, they're doing so on their own terms — at a historic rate.

  • About 68% of work separations were categorized at quits — easing from April, when a record number of people quit their job.
  • It's one of the best times to find a new job or ask for a raise in a while, "which feels like a weird thing to say during the middle of an ongoing pandemic," says Glassdoor's senior economist Daniel Zhao.

Go deeper

Pandemic-era stimulus lifted millions out of poverty, new government data shows

A woman carries a box of food as others wait in line at a food bank in Van Nuys, Calif., in April 2020. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

In one of the worst years ever for the economy and labor market, America's poverty rate dropped, per one measure that takes into account pandemic-era aid, the government said Tuesday.

Why it matters: It underscores the colossal impact stimulus checks, expanded unemployment payments and other benefits had on households in 2020 — even as millions lost jobs. Without them (and other safety nets, like Social Security), the poverty rate jumped for the first time in five years by one percentage point to 11.4%.

Sep 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

What young people want from their employers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Workers increasingly want their companies to think bigger than profits and speak up on social issues — and it's younger employees driving the trend.

The big picture: As the next generation enters the workforce, companies will have to devote even more time and resources to tackling issues like systemic racism, income inequality and climate change.

GOP Rep. Gonzalez retires in face of Trump-backed primary

Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R) Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R) announced his retirement on Thursday, declining to run against a Trump-backed primary challenger in 2022.

Why it matters: Gonzalez has suffered politically since siding with House Democrats to impeach the 45th president after the Capitol riot.