A record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September, the government reported Friday in another indication of persistent instability in the U.S. labor force.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) also found that the total number of job openings in September remained relatively unchanged at 10.4 million. Retailers had 1.12 million jobs unfilled.
The number of people quitting in what is known as the “Great Resignation” was 4.3 million in August. But September’s total topped that number, the previous record, by about 164,000.
“Quits again reached a record high for the 3rd month in a row,” tweeted Daniel Zhao, senior economist for Glassdoor. “Over 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in September, as a combination of the tight labor market and delta-induced working conditions pushed fed-up workers to resign.”
The “quit rate” rose to 3.0%. Industries with the largest increases in quits were arts, entertainment and recreation (+56,000); other services (+47,000); and state and local government education (+30,000), the report said.
In September, there were 2.76 million more job openings than unemployed people looking for work. In August, the gap was 2.25 million.
Hires increased in health care and social assistance (+109,000) and finance and insurance (+60,000), the JOLTS report stated. Hires decreased in state and local government education (-92,000) and educational services (-89,000).
The health care sector showed one of the largest increases in available jobs, adding 141,000 openings.
Quitting has risen particularly sharply in industries that are mostly made up of in-person service jobs, such as restaurants, hotels and retail, and factories where people work in close proximity. That suggests that at least some people quitting are doing so out of fear of COVID-19 and may be leaving the workforce.
The figures point to a historic level of turmoil in the job market as newly-empowered workers quit jobs, often for higher pay or better working conditions. Incomes are rising, Americans are spending more and the economy is growing, and employers have ramped up hiring to keep pace. Rising inflation, however, is offsetting much of the pay gains for workers.
Friday’s report follows last week’s jobs report, which showed that employers stepped up their hiring in October, adding 531,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate fell to 4.6%, from 4.8%. Hiring rebounded as the Delta wave, which had restrained job gains in August and September, faded.
• This story is based in part on wire service reports.