4.2M Americans left jobs in October, historic quits level continues

National

Hiring sign is displayed outside of a retail store in Vernon Hills, Ill., Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits plummeted last week to the lowest level in more than half a century, another sign that the U.S. job market is rebounding rapidly from last year’s coronavirus recession. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Months of record-level resignations continued through October, with 4.2 million Americans voluntarily leaving their jobs. While that number is still high, it’s a decrease compared to the record in September.

Over the course of the “Great Resignation,” where Americans have chosen to leave their jobs even as the COVID-19 pandemic creates difficulties with economic recovery, millions of workers still decided to quit, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of layoffs and discharges, by comparison, saw little change but did continue, with another 1.4 million released from their employment in the same month.

The biggest decreases in workers were transportation, warehousing and utilities, plus finance and insurance, and arts and entertainment. Overall, BLS said the separations were lower than the month before, with 5.9 million total separations in October, 255,000 fewer than the month before.

The trend of mass quits continues, relatively unabated. In September, 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs. In August, 4.3 million did the same. July, too, saw 4 million quits. While more workers quit their jobs, the productivity level in the U.S. declined as labor costs increased.

Work productivity for nonfarm jobs decreased 5.2% in the third quarter of fiscal year 2021. It’s the largest drop in productivity since the second quarter of 1960, according to BLS. At that time, productivity dropped 6.1%.

Over time, from third quarter 2020 to third quarter 2021, nonfarm labor productivity decreased 0.6%. The last time productivity decreased so much was the end of 1993.

As labor productivity went down, the cost of paying for employees and paying employees increased. More workers worked longer hours, but how efficiently they worked lessened, even as businesses started to increase wages and benefits offered.

The effort to improve work perks to attract talent may be adding to new hires, but does not appear to be helping with retention.

BLS reported that, in the manufacturing sector, hours worked increased 4%, but productivity went down 3.6%. The output of the labor force, generally, has also increased but productivity is still down. Cost for compensation increased 2.7% for hourly workers in Q3, a 3.7% increase from the year before.

The level of productivity in Q3 decreased past the initial estimates, and the number of jobs added in October was also below what was expected.

Still, unemployment during the current round of inflation did decrease compared to the month before, with a 4.2% national unemployment rate compared to the 4.6% in September.

While job openings were lower than expected, the number of hires outpaced the number of separations. BLS reported 73.8 million Americans started new jobs in October. Compared to the more than 68 million who left their jobs or were laid off or fired, the workforce saw a net gain of 5.7 million workers in new positions.

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