US workers are quitting their jobs in an unprecedented manner, making things harder for employers to fill vacancies, it was reported Tuesday.
The US Labor Department said resignations reached 4.3 million in August, the highest on records dating back to December 2000, and up from 4 million in July.
Hiring also slowed in August, the Government's report showed, when the number of jobs available fell to 10.4 million, from a record high of 11.1 million the previous month.
Last year, open jobs have increased 62%. Yet overall hiring, as measured by Tuesday's report, has declined, which, according to US media, suggests fear of the coronavirus Delta variant is partly to blame. Nearly 900,000 people left jobs at restaurants, bars, and hotels in August, up 21% from July.
On the other hand, industries that do not involve close contact with large numbers of people have not gone through such massive desertion, the report showed.
Employers desperately in need of help has pumped up wages, as workers have a much greater negotiating power. Understaffing also means that while vacancies are filled, the burden of the work also falls on the remaining labour force, which quickly interprets such a condition as a wage reduction (the same money for more work) and seizes the opportunity to seek a better paying job.
In addition to these factors, analysts warned the August data was too early to reflect the impact of vaccination mandates, since President Joseph Biden's decision on the issue regarding civil servants was not announced until Sept. 9.
According to the US Government, job gains were weak for a second straight month in September, with only 194,000 jobs added, though unemployment fell to 4.8% from 5.2%.
After quits, retirements, and layoffs, Tuesday's report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed that total hiring in August fell sharply, to 6.3 million from 6.8 million in July. The report also highlighted the fact that resignations had prevailed in the South and Midwest, exactly where the worst COVID outbreaks had been recorded in August.
Workers leaving their jobs usually means they already have other positions or are confident they can find one, but this does not seem to be the case. On the other hand, the fact that the increase in quits was heavily concentrated in sectors involving close contact with the public has been regarded as a sign that fear of COVID-19 played a key role.
Labour market analysts have also pointed out that an increase in job openings in the UK has reached a record level after many European workers were forced to leave the country as a result of post-Brexit rules.
Staffing consultants have underscored employers now need to offer additional benefits in a market where job candidates have the upper hand like rarely before. This scenario is expected to keep inflation high as companies increase wages to attract more workers.