The August Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday, shows that nearly 3 million employees quit their jobs voluntarily that month. Economists see this as a sign of labor market strength, Andrew Soergel writes at US News and World Report, indicating that workers feel increasingly sure of getting a new job:
“Optimism continues to build over the near-term hiring outlook,” Sam Bullard, a senior economist and managing director at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in a research note last month, noting that “labor market conditions have been supportive to the recent increase we have seen in confidence and consumer spending growth.”
Quits have been consistently high all year as the labor market continues its record-setting run of job creation. American employers generated 156,000 new jobs last month, according to a separate report the bureau released Friday, and have ginned up more than 1.6 million additions so far this year. And with more newly created positions and a consistently high number of job openings, domestic employees have plenty of options if they opt to leave their current positions in search of new ones. Job openings fell back slightly in August after coming just shy of an all-time high in July, but employers were still actively recruiting for more than 5.4 million vacancies.
Meanwhile, more than 5.2 million workers were hired in August – which makes it the third-best month for new hires so far this year. Professional and business services brought on more than 1 million new workers, while health care and social assistance outfits accounted for 542,000 additions.
The latest JOLTS data comes amid other encouraging indicators in the US labor market.
The economy added 156,000 jobs in September, which economists characterized as a decent but not exciting number, but a slight increase in the unemployment rate seemed to indicate that long-term unemployed Americans were re-entering the job market. In addition, new unemployment claims remained at a historic low last week, indicating that relatively few US employees are getting laid off, Bloomberg reports:
Jobless claims were 246,000 in the period ended Oct. 8, unchanged from the previous week’s level, which was revised lower, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 253,000. The four-week average also fell to the lowest level since 1973.
Employers remain reluctant to lay off workers as the pool of potential job candidates dries up and openings remain near record highs, making conditions ripe for wage gains that may spur Federal Reserve policy makers to raise interest rates by year’s end. Filings have been below 300,000 for 84 straight weeks — the longest streak since 1970 and a level typical for a healthy labor market.