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Why is Everyone Quitting Their Jobs Now?

Quit your job to help our economy?

This past September, more than 2.6 million Americans – nearly 2% of the entire workforce — quit their jobs, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report last Thursday. This marks the highest “quit rate” since back in 2008 (April), when the Great Recession was just getting underway:

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In normal economic times, this is an indication of a strong economy. People generally don’t tell their boss to shove it unless they are a) trapped in an hypnotic state, Office-Space-style, b) have already lined up another (better) job offer, or c) feel relatively confident they will get another job.

Moreover, leaving one job for another has traditionally been a strategy to get a raise, so an elevated quit rate can be an indication that wages are becoming less stagnant.

Yet there is another read on the situation: some of the highest quit rates are currently found in low-wage industries like hotel work, restaurant service and retail. One can hope that these low-income workers are finding better-paying jobs, although the amount of their raises might be fairly minimal.

Moreover, the BLS reports that there are still 2 unemployed Americans for every 1 job opening – which may be better odds than we faced during the depths of the recession, when almost 7 people were fighting for 1 job. But still, this is hardly a sign of the super-tight labor market conditions that might push wages higher.

The following data from the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank specializing in labor issues, shows how the job-seeker-to-position ratio has gone up and down in recent years:

Back when times were good in 2000, the ration for open jobs to unemployed people was roughly 1:1. That’s about as good as it gets in the job market. But we’re not quite there yet…

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Emery Reddy