won't stop quitting

Despite fewer job openings, Americans keep quitting at record rates

Despite fewer job openings, Americans keep quitting at record rates
Image: Brian Snyder (Reuters)
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The number of open jobs fell sharply in June, signaling a slowdown in the booming US labor market.

That hasn’t stopped the “Great Resignation,” though.

While the number of US job openings fell by 5.3% to 10.7 million from May to June, the biggest drop since the covid recession, workers are still quitting, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released Tuesday. The quits rate, or share of employed Americans leaving their jobs voluntarily, was 2.8% in June.

Image for article titled Despite fewer job openings, Americans keep quitting at record rates
Graphic: Datawrapper

Meanwhile, layoffs are at historic lows as employers try to hold onto the employers they fought to attract when the US economy emerged from the pandemic.

“The labor market is loosening a bit, but by any standard it is still quite tight,” labor economist Nick Bunker said in an email. “The outlook for economic growth may not be as rosy as it was a few months ago, but there’s no sign of imminent danger in the labor market.”

Retail job openings are dropping

The 600,000-plus drop in job openings was led primarily by retail trade, a sector that is declining much faster than the rest of the economy as consumers switch to spending on services, like restaurant meals, rather than goods. Still, the retail layoffs rate dropped during the same period, to 0.6% from 1%.

This is for good reason too. Nearly 4% of retail workers quit in June. “While employers may have pulled back on their intention to hire, they continue to refrain from laying off workers at higher rates,” Bunker said.

Overall, the layoff rate remains historically low at 1%. (The previous low point since the government started collecting data in 2000 was 1.1%.)

The current job situation is a reversal of what happened after the Great Recession. Back then, the labor market remained weak even as the economy recovered. Now, the job market is staying strong, despite clear signs of a downturn.

One caveat to Tuesday’s strong job market data: Claims for unemployment insurance started growing faster in the first half of July.