The number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs surged to a record 4.5 million in November, a show of confidence in the labor market and an indication that higher wages could prevail for a while.
The increase of 370,000 people who quit, which was reported Tuesday in the Labor Department's monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, was led by the accommodation and food services industry.
There were also big increases in the health care and social assistance fields, as well as the transportation, warehousing and utilities sectors. All four U.S. regions reported rises in the number of people quitting their jobs.
"The historic rates of quitting continued through the end of 2021," said Nick Bunker, the director of research at the job services company Indeed Hiring Lab. "Workers continued to switch jobs in light of the many opportunities the current labor market provides, with the private-sector quits rate hitting an all-time high of 3.4 percent. Of course, whether these conditions continue into 2022 is one of the biggest questions for the year ahead."
Lower-wage sectors directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic continue to have higher levels of quitting, Bunker said, adding that the so-called quits rate in the hospitality sector was 6.9 percent. There were also large declines in job openings in that sector, as well as the construction and nondurable goods manufacturing industries.
Job openings, a measure of labor demand, dropped by 529,000 to a still-high 10.6 million on the last day of November. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 11.075 million vacancies.