A record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September amid a near-record number of job openings, The Washington Post reports.
About 3 percent of the national workforce quit in September, up slightly from 2.9 percent in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The highest percentages were among workers in the trade, transportation, and utilities industries, as well as retail, professional services, and hospitality. About 6.6% of all food workers quit in September.
The rise came as the delta variant peaked around much of the country. Some parents quit because of school or child care issues but many other workers quit because there are millions of job openings and companies are raising wages to attract applicants. Still, safety issues remain a top concern for workers.
“There are likely some delta-induced quits here,” Daniel Zhao, an economist at Glassdoor, told the Post. “Workers are fed up with working conditions and feel unsafe and quitting even though they might not immediately jump into a new job.”
“Quits are high in leisure and hospitality, health services and education,” he added. “Those are all industries where an increase in covid can make work less safe.”
Southern, rural areas see biggest turnover:
Areas in the South, West, and Midwest all saw quit rates over 3 percent in September compared to around 2.2 percent in the North East.
August trends also showed that workers in rural areas were more likely to quit because they had more leverage to negotiate better pay.
The economy has recovered a majority of jobs lost in the pandemic but remains about 4 million jobs short of pre-pandemic totals.
Worker turnover issues have been compounded by supply chain issues and growing inflation.
Conservative lawmakers pushed to cut off the pandemic era federal unemployment benefits to spur hiring but the move does not appear to have had much of an effect.
Higher wages, but higher costs:
Workers have seen wages rise significantly for the first time in decades amid the labor shortage but the gains have been shortlived.
The rate of inflation has more than outpaced the rate of wage growth.
Consumer prices rose 6.2 percent in October, the sharpest increase in 30 years.
Though wages are up, buying power is down about 1.1 percent.
“I would expect over the next year the price inflation to relent a bit, and most of the wage growth to stay — and so I think they’re going to come out ahead,” Josh Bivens, the director of research at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, told the Post. “But yeah, this inflationary spike has definitely bit into the growth of paychecks.”