A record 4.5M Americans quit their jobs in November as 'Great Resignation' persists
The data precedes the economic impact of COVID-19 omicron variant
A record number of Americans quit their jobs in November 2021, underscoring how persistent turmoil in the labor market has made it difficult for employers to fill open positions.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that an unprecedented 4.5 million Americans, or about 3% of the workforce, quit their jobs November, matching the high from September. That's up from 4.2 million in October and tops the previous record of 4.4 million in September. The pre-pandemic level was about 3.6 million.
Meanwhile, the number of job openings unexpectedly fell to 10.6 million by the end of November. The data comes before the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus began disrupting the economy.
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The data emphasizes how newly empowered workers are quitting their jobs in favor of better wages, working conditions and hours as businesses lure new workers with higher salaries – a new trend dubbed the "Great Resignation." As a result, Americans' incomes are rising across the board as employers have ramped up hiring to offset the losses.
The highest inflation in nearly 40 years, however, has eroded the pay gains for many workers: The government reported recently that average hourly earnings for all employees actually decreased 0.4% from October to November when factoring in the impact of rising consumer prices. Although average hourly earnings increased by 0.3% in November, that coincided with a top-line inflation increase of 0.8%.
Resignations in November were concentrated in accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, and transportation, housing and utilities. A majority of people quit for a new job.
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The number of available jobs has topped 10 million for six consecutive months; before the pandemic began in February 2020, the highest on record was 7.7 million.
The record before the pandemic was 7.5 million. There were once again more job openings in November than the 6.9 million unemployed workers, evidence of how difficult it has been for employers to onboard new workers.
The data precedes the release of the December jobs report on Friday morning, which is expected to show that employers hired 400,000 new workers last month. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, is expected to slide down to 4.1% from 4.2%.