US Labor Dept. Says a Record 4.3 Million Quit Jobs in August

Workers, quit, jobs, food, retail

People are quitting their jobs in record numbers, led by the restaurant, bar and retail sectors, according to the Tuesday (Oct. 12) Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. Labor Department said 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, a series high since its start in December 2000. The quits rate increased to 2.9%, up 242,000 from July, which had a quits rate of 2.7%.

The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing delta variant have changed the underlying forces of the labor market, where health and childcare concerns became issues unique to any other time in history.

See also: Sept. Jobs Report Disappoints, With Just 194K New Positions Added

The food service and accommodation sectors lost 892,000 employees; retail, 721,000; and health care and social assistance, 534,000. While overall COVID cases are down worldwide, there is some chatter among healthcare workers that infections could rise during the winter months.

“As job openings and hires fell in August, the quits rate hit a new series high, surging along with the rise in COVID cases and likely growing concerns about working in the continuing pandemic,” Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told CNBC.

The number of open jobs dropped to 10.44 million, down 659,000 from July’s level, which was revised up 11.1 million. The level missed expectations of 10.96 million, per FactSet data.

Chris Rupkey, chief economist at Fwdbonds, told CNBC that the high demand for workers is due to the economy being “strong as a bull” and isn’t solely due to people quitting their jobs, experiencing childcare problems, or having health concerns over the Delta variant.

The rate of new jobs posted dropped to 6.6% in August from July’s 7%. During the same period last year, the level was only 4.4% as the country worked to accommodate the new pandemic normal.

Read more: Retailers Lean on Employees to Do More Amid Labor Shortage

The hires rate dropped to 4.3% from the previous month’s 4.6%, largely due to hiring declines of 233,000 in the leisure and hospitality space. The drop reflects a rate decline to 7.9% from the previous month’s 9.5%. Hires in the government sector also decreased in August, down 1.4% from 2.2% in July.