More People Quitting Their Jobs Though Still Below Average Rate Before Recession Started

The percentage of people who voluntarily left their jobs, referred to as the nation’s “quit rate” by the Labor Department, went up to 1.8% in November, the highest rate during the current  recovery and up from a low of 1.2% in September 2009.  About 2.4 million workers resigned in November.  Some retired or simply chose not to continue working. But many quit to hunt for a new job or because they had already found a new job.  2.1% was the average quit rate that prevailed between late 2000, when the Labor Department first started tracking this type of data, and 2006, before the recession started.

About 20% of November’s quits were in the “accommodation and food services” sector, up from 17.5% in November, 2011. By contrast, only 5.2% of November’s quits were in manufacturing, down from 5.9% in 2011.

Even with more people confident enough to quit their jobs, U.S. employers are still moving cautiously on creating new job openings.  Per The Labor Department, the number of hires as a share of overall employment remained at 3.3% as of November, the same level as a year prior and well below the 3.8% average between late 2000 and 2006.

Overall, the quit rate has edged down during much of the 2000s, even when the economy was booming. After the 2001 downturn, quitting levels failed to return to their prerecession highs. Some 51% of U.S. workers have been with the same employer for at least five years, up from 46% in 1996, according to a January 2012 survey by the Labor Department.