America’s workforce just keeps getting thinner and thinner, and we are not talking about physical appearance. Instead, we are talking about a workforce that is dwindling in record numbers as August saw workers quit in droves.
The Labor Department reported that the nation saw employees take sabbaticals in large chunks with restaurant and bar staff leading the way. Retail stores also saw their numbers climb.
These shocking “workers quit” numbers, with 4.3 million handing in their badges, reached a high not seen since December 2000. Jolts, or Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, reported that quit rates increased by 242,000 in August, a 2.9% increase from their previous months reporting that also saw a significant 2.7% jump.
Typically, when workers quit it has been seen as a worker’s level of confidence that they either have other employment or that employment is easy to find. Now, though, workers are quitting without any employment plans in the near future.
Of those 4.3 million workers who quit, 892,000 were part of the accommodations and food services industries. Retail workers who left their jobs totaled 721,000. Another big and surprising number came from the health care and social assistance industries as they saw 534,000 departures.
These numbers were only a piece of the puzzle, albeit a large piece. While people walked off their jobs in record numbers, August hirings also dropped. What’s more puzzling, though, is although the record number of workers quit their jobs, job openings also decreased in August.
“As job openings and hires fell in August, the quits rate hit a new series high, surging along with the rise in Covid cases and likely growing concerns about working in the continuing pandemic,” Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said to CNBC.
The numbers are all concerning. Job vacancies fell to 10.44 million during August, a 659,000 drop from July’s 11.1 million. The August total came in much lower than the market‘s 10.96 million expectation.
Job postings rate sat at 4.4% a year ago while the COVID pandemic was making its presence known and shutting down large portions of the country. Now, as the nation was much more open, the percentage sat at 6.6%.
Overall hirings fell by nearly 439,000 as hire rates dropped from 4.6% to 4.3%. Much of this was felt by the large decrease in the hospitality and leisure industries. It was this sector that took the hardest COVID hit and saw a 233,000-hiring decline, a drop from July’s 9.5% to 7.9%. Government hiring also saw its hiring numbers with a sharp drop as they fell to 1.4% from 2.2%.
So, what is the cause for these poor numbers? Some may say the vaccine mandates play a large part in the millions of workers walking away from jobs, but that doesn’t look to be the case, at least not for July and August numbers. President Joe Biden didn’t announce his mandate until early in September. It’s possible many workers had some foresight, though 4.3 million is a lot of foresight.
Many experts say the large number of workers quitting, especially the numbers seen across the hospitality and leisure industries, stems from the nation’s fear of the Delta COVID variant that has found its way into many lives across the country. As those pandemic numbers surged in August, so did employees walking off jobs. Whether right or wrong, fear can be highly motivating.
It will be interesting to see how September numbers play out as Biden and his administration push more and more into a corner, forcing the entire country into getting vaccinated by limiting places the country can frequent. This includes how they make their living, as the mandates have begun to take hold at many big businesses across the nation.
These mandates are only causing more division between those who feel the vaccine (and upcoming booster) is imperative to jumpstarting our flagging economy and workforce and those who feel the vaccines are a money grab (hello Pfizer and their $33.5 billion vaccine profit).
A number of big businesses are beginning to feel the pushback by employees who are refusing to give in to these mandates as more workers quit. Southwest is one big one feeling the push. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott just signed an executive order banning all vaccine mandates in the entire state.
So, with workers quitting at record numbers, where does it stop? When does it stop? As the holiday season is almost upon us, supply chains continue to feel the effects of the workforce shortage. This, in turn, will be felt across the nation as grocery stores and retail stores continue to see empty shelves.