Over 4.4 Million U.S. Workers Quit Jobs in September, Shattering Record Set in August

The Labor Department announced Friday that a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September, surpassing the previous record of 4.3 million set in August, the Associated Press reported. The 4.4 million who quit account for about 3 percent of the nation's total workforce.

The record number came during a month in which there were 10.4 million job openings, a near-record sum that marked a slight decrease from the 10.6 million in August, AP reported. The numbers reflect a job market in which workers faced with more opportunities than ever are empowered to leave positions in favor of others with higher pay and other benefits, while employers grow increasingly desperate.

The Labor Department report follows last week's jobs report, which showed that U.S. employers added 531,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell from 4.8 percent to 4.6 percent. The hiring boost came as impacts of the COVID-19 Delta variant, which slowed hiring efforts in August and September weakened.

The tumultuous market has seen incomes rise along with a growing economy, putting even more pressure on employers to fill positions. But increasing inflation is counteracting much of the pay increases for workers.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Record Job Quits
Americans quit their jobs at a record pace for the second straight month in September, while businesses and other employers continued to post a near-record number of available jobs. Above, a hiring sign is placed at a booth for Jameson's Irish Pub during a job fair on September 22, 2021, in the West Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

It is typically perceived as a signal of worker confidence when people leave the jobs they hold. The vast majority of people quit for a new position.

The number of available jobs has topped 10 million for four consecutive months. The record before the pandemic was 7.5 million. There were more job openings in September than the 7.7 million unemployed, illustrating the difficulties so many companies have had finding workers.

In addition to the number of unemployed, there are about 5 million fewer people looking for jobs compared with pre-pandemic trends, making it much harder for employers to hire. Economists cite many reasons for that decline: Some are mothers unable to find or afford child care, while others are avoiding taking jobs out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Stimulus checks this year and in 2020, as well as extra unemployment aid that has since expired, has given some families more savings and enabled them to hold off from looking for work.

Goldman Sachs, in a research note Thursday, estimates that most of the 5 million are older Americans who have decided to retire. Only about 1.7 million are aged 25 through 54, which economists consider prime working years.

Goldman estimates that most of those people in their prime working years will return to work in the coming months, but that would still leave a much smaller workforce than before the pandemic. That could leave employers facing labor shortages for months or even years.

Businesses in other countries are facing similar challenges, leading to pay gains and higher inflation in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom.

Competition for U.S. workers is intense for retailers and delivery companies, particularly as they staff up for what is expected to be a healthy winter holiday shopping season.

Online giant Amazon is hiring 125,000 permanent drivers and warehouse workers and offer pay between $18 and $22 an hour. It's also paying sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000.

Seasonal hiring is also ramping up. Package delivery company UPS is seeking to add 100,000 workers to help with the crush of holiday orders, and plans to make job offers to some applicants within 30 minutes.

Update 11/12/21, 12:21 p.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information.

Near-Record Job Postings
A ''Now Hiring" sign hangs above the entrance to a McDonald's restaurant on November 5, 2021, in Miami Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images