4.3M Americans Quit Their Jobs in August, Especially in the South & Midwest: Report Shows

About 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, the highest number since December 2000, according to a new report from the Labor Department. The number of people who quit in August was highest in the South and Midwest, which were the U.S. regions hit hardest by COVID-19 surges in August, the Associated Press reported.

The report showed that while the number of people who quit jobs in August grew from the previous month, hiring also slowed. The number of available jobs decreased to 10.4 million from the record high of 11.1 million in July.

The data illustrated a continuing conundrum throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen record levels of posted jobs and not enough people willing to fill them. Open positions have increased by 62 percent in the past year, but overall hiring detailed in the Labor Department report has slightly decreased, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Many Americans Quitting Jobs
One reason America’s employers are having trouble filling jobs was starkly illustrated in a report Tuesday, October 12: Americans are quitting in droves. A sign in the parking lot of Mariano's grocery store advertises the availability of jobs Friday, October 8, 2021, in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo

The government said Friday that job gains were weak for a second straight month in September, with only 194,000 jobs added, though the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent from 5.2 percent. Friday's hiring figure is a net total, after job gains and quits, retirements and layoffs are taken into account. Tuesday's report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, includes raw figures, and showed that total hiring in August fell sharply, to 6.3 million from 6.8 million in July.

The data is "highlighting the immense problems businesses are dealing with," said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, in an email. "Not enough people. Not enough equipment and/or parts. Meantime, customers are waiting for their orders, or waiting to place their orders. What a strange world this is."

The jump in quits strongly suggests that fear of the Delta variant is partly responsible for the shortfall in workers. In addition to driving quits, fear of the disease likely caused plenty of those out of work to not look for, or take, jobs.

As COVID-19 cases surged in August, quits soared in restaurants and hotels from the previous month and rose in other public-facing jobs, such as retail and education.

Compared with a year ago, the number of people quitting their restaurant and hotel jobs has almost doubled.

When workers quit, it is typically seen as a good sign for the job market, because people usually leave jobs when they already have other positions or are confident they can find one. The large increase in August does include some good news: It likely reflects the fact that with employers desperate for workers and raising wages, many workers feel they can get better pay elsewhere.

But the fact that the increase in quits was heavily concentrated in sectors that involve close contact with the public is a sign that fear of COVID also played a large role. Many people may have quit even without other jobs to take.

The sharp increase in job openings also has an international dimension: Job vacancies have reached a record level in the United Kingdom, though that is partly because many European workers left the U.K. after Brexit.

Wendy's Hiring Sign
About 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, the highest recorded number since December 2000, according to a new report from the Labor Department. A 'now hiring' sign outside of a business on October 8, 2021 in Miami. Joe Raedle/Getty Images