MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – A record number of people are quitting their jobs as pandemic restrictions ease. According to a recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report that looks at data from April 2021, the number of job openings soared to 9.3 million that month, a series high. The job openings series began in December 2000.
For comparison, in April of 2018, the number of job openings was approximately 4 million. That’s closer to the average number.
According to Frank Hefner, an economics professor at the College of Charleston, there’s a long list of reasons people are moving on. Some people are quitting because they’re hoping for better opportunities like more pay, a different working environment, and remote options. Others opted for early retirement or decided to leave the workforce for medical reasons or barriers with childcare.
The JOLTS report states: “In April, the quits level and rate increased to series highs of 4.0 million and 2.7 percent, respectively. Quits increased in a number of industries with the largest increases in retail trade (+106,000), professional and business services (+94,000), and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+49,000). The number of quits increased in the South, Midwest, and West regions.”
“Job openings increased in a number of industries with the largest increases in accommodation and food
services (+349,000), other services (+115,000), and durable goods manufacturing (+78,000).”
“I can see people jumping ship going from one location to another in order to seek a higher wage,” explained Professor Hefner.
Now, to fill the gap in the workforce businesses are being forced to do more.
“Higher wages, better benefits…” said Professor Hefner.
The reason is that now, many workers won’t settle for less.
“There’s actually negotiating room now for people that are underskilled. We have double the number of job openings so that signals to people that ‘well eight dollars an hour isn’t going to cut it anymore. Maybe you need to do 15, 16.’,” said Hefner.
Going forward, Professor Hefner says the crystal ball looks hazy and it’s hard to know if this trend will stick around. Looking at past trends doesn’t necessarily apply to this situation because the pandemic has brought such unusual economic changes.
“Everything we’re used to hearing about in terms of recession and recovery… it’s off the table,” explained Hefner.
He says people are betting on some of the open jobs filling up, but that will only happen if they’re offered at higher wages and with better benefits.