- February saw over 4 million workers quitting their jobs for the ninth month in a row.
- It’s a labor market trend that shows no signs of easing up, as workers still quit at near-record highs.
- The persistence of workers quitting so much has reshaped the status quo.
By now, everyone quitting their jobs might just seem normal.
That’s because Americans have been quitting in extraordinarily high numbers for an unprecedented period. February 2022 marked the ninth month in a row that over 4 million workers have let their employers know it’s over, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The new data reinforces one of the biggest economic trends of the past year — the sheer number of workers quitting their jobs.
In fact, the quits rate ticked up slightly in February to 2.9%, while 2.8% of the workforce quit in January. The number of quits across the economy — and across different industries — remained stable in February, suggesting no major drops in people deciding that their jobs weren’t right anymore.
But while employers (and even Kim Kardashian) have complained that no one wants to work anymore, that’s not what the data is showing. Hiring was strong yet again in February, with 6.7 million workers signing on to new jobs. That’s higher than the number of workers who quit, suggesting instead that workers were job switching.
That means workers have, in part, realized that they can quit and land somewhere else, often with higher pay. In doing so, they’ve reshaped the labor market, creating a workforce that isn’t afraid to throw in the towel — and has forced employers to scramble to keep up.
We’re still in the period of “strong demand” for workers unleashed last summer, “affording people opportunities that they wouldn’t have maybe had otherwise,” Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed Hiring Lab, told Insider.
For workers, when it comes to “maybe something that they would’ve just sort of grinned and beared at work, now they can say, oh, well, there’s opportunities out out there right now,” Bunker said. “And those other employers are trying to attract people.”
Workers don’t have to worry much about getting laid off, a stark contrast to the labor market of the early days of the pandemic. In December 2021, the level and rate of layoffs reached their lowest readings since BLS began tracking the data in 2000. While both the rate and level of layoffs in February were a bit above December’s series low, the layoff level fell from January to February. That means that employers want to keep their workers, something the latter seem well aware of.
“The high level of quits is really a sign of workers’ confidence,” Bunker said. “At the same time, we’re seeing really low layoffs, which is a sign of the security that many workers have right now.”
BLS reported in its monthly dispatch on hiring that the unemployment rate dropped in February to 3.8%. As of February, hourly wages had risen 5.1% from the year prior, although breakneck pay increases — a response from employers to try and lure in workers as they quit en masse — seem to have cooled somewhat (which isn’t necessarily a bad development).
“There are signs that the labor market is cooling a little bit. The question is, on that thermometer, where does the temperature land?” Bunker said. “Because the labor market is still tight; the labor market is still hot. It might be getting relatively cooler.”
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