A record 4.5M Americans quit their jobs in November as 'Great Resignation' persists

 A record number of Americans quit their jobs in November, even as employers found it slightly easier to fill their open positions.

More than 4.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs in November, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That was up from 4.2 million in October and was the most in the two decades that the government has been keeping track of. The rate of quitting has been especially high in hospitality and other low-wage sectors, where workers have been taking advantage of strong demand to look for jobs with better pay or working conditions.

Number of People Who Quit Jobs by Month

Note: Voluntary quits, excluding retirements, seasonally adjusted

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

By The New York Times

There were 10.6 million job openings posted on the last day of November. That was down from 11.1 million in October, but still more than in any month before the pandemic began — and far more than the roughly seven million Americans looking for work.

“Employer demand is still extremely high, and the result of that is increased competition for workers,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor. “That means more job openings, higher wages, and more churn in the labor market.”

Number of Job Openings Per Month

Note: Seasonally adjusted

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

By The New York Times

Competition for workers has led to faster wage growth this year, particularly for those changing jobs. Hourly wages for job switchers were up 4.3 percent in November on average, compared to a 3.2 percent gain for people who stayed in their jobs, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The data released Tuesday is from the Labor Department’s survey of job openings and labor turnover, known as JOLTS. On Friday, the department will release data from December on employment, unemployment, and earnings, which most forecasters expect to show that job growth accelerated at the end of the year.

The data in both reports, however, predates the recent explosion of coronavirus cases across the country. The latest Covid-19 wave, linked to the Omicron variant of the virus, has forced airlines to cancel flights, businesses to delay return-to-office plans, and school districts to return temporarily to remote learning. How that will affect the broader economy, Mr. Zhao said, remains unclear.

“The data that we’re getting now isn’t fully capturing the impact of Omicron,” he said.

American manufacturers in December matched their slowest pace of growth in 11 months as they coped with persistent labor and material shortages and braced for a fresh onslaught from the omicron strain of the coronavirus. 

A closely followed index of U.S.-based manufacturers dropped to 58.7% in the final month of 2021 compared to 61.1% in November, the Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday.

Any number above 50% signals expansion and readings above 60% are considered exceptional.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast the index to slip to 60%.

The ISM results are drawn from a survey of senior business executives. The index tends to give a good snapshot of the health of the U.S. economy. 

Big picture: Manufacturers have plenty of demand for new cars, electronics, furniture, and the like, but they are likely to remain under strain until all the shortages ease up.

Omicron doesn’t help matters. The very contagious strain is likely to make it harder for manufacturers to keep production lines going at full tilt due to employees missing work after catching the virus. Yet they have been less affected by the coronavirus than businesses that deal with customers face to face.

Toyota Motor sold more cars and trucks last year in the United States than General Motors, the first year in recorded history that a foreign automaker has outsold all American manufacturers.

G.M., Ford Motor, and other American automakers produced and sold fewer cars than they were hoping to in 2021 because they were hit hard by a global computer chip shortage. Toyota was less affected by the shortage because it had accumulated a large stockpile of the parts.

Toyota said it sold 2.3 million trucks and cars in the United States, which was slightly ahead of G.M.’s 2.2 million. Ford is expected to finish third when it releases its sales data on Wednesday.

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