As Quits And Job Openings Hit Record Highs, Workers Play the System (and Who Can Blame Them?)

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Reflecting a persisting tight labor market, both the number of job openings and the number of Americans who quit their jobs were at record highs in March, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report that came out on May 3. The report showed that the number of job openings was at a series high of 11.5 million for the month.

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This figure followed the 11.3 million job openings reported in February. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal estimated there were 11.2 million openings in March.

In March, the number of quits edged up to a series high of 4.5 million (+152,000), or a 3% rate. Quits increased in professional and business services (+88,000) and construction (+69,000) and the number of quits increased in the South region, according to the Labor Department.

In addition, the number of hires was little changed at 6.7 million, or a hire rate of 4.5%.

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Jeanniey Walden, CMO at DailyPay, told GOBankingRates that this new report showed “it’s the labor trend that just won’t end.”

“With all eyes on the Fed, this morning’s JOLTS report reveals record highs in job openings at 11.5 million and job quits at 4.5 million. Even more jarring is the widening supply-demand imbalance with 5.5 million more available jobs than actual unemployed persons,” Walden said. “Employers feel like they’re in a bidding war for workers, who continue to consume and switch jobs at record rates. And while higher wages are often the draw, we’re seeing a growing number switch for financial wellness benefits like on-demand pay, savings plans and spot bonuses to take the sting out of inflation. Workers are not waiting for the Fed to break the wage-price spiral and who can blame them.”

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The Labor Department said that job openings decreased in transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-69,000); state and local government education (43,000); and federal government (-20,000).

Quits were specifically more pronounced in the accommodation and food services, leisure and hospitality sector and the retail trade sector, according to Labor Department data.

The Labor Department’s report is a day ahead of the much anticipated Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision on May 4.

David Russell, VP of Market Intelligence at TradeStation Group, told GOBankingRates that “the trend is clear.”

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“Despite worries about the Fed, inflation and Ukraine, the U.S. labor market remains incredibly strong,” he said.

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“Even with GDP shrinking in the first quarter, companies are trying to get ahead of the curve and get staffed as they eye a post-Covid return to normalcy. American employment was showing signs of an upswing before the pandemic, and now that trend is back in force,” Russell said.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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