Quits Rate Continues to Rise, Signaling Worker Confidence

By Roy Maurer Mar 11, 2015
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More Americans are quitting their jobs—a sign that labor demand is strengthening, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The March BLS report examines the hires and separations in the U.S. labor market from January 2015, but also contains the total 2014 annual hires and separations data.

“The annual data gives a sense of how the job market in 2014 looked overall and it was generally quite positive,” said Jennifer Schramm, SHRM-SCP, manager of workforce trends at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). It showed that the number of job openings increased over 2014 for the private and public sectors and in all four U.S. regions, she said.

The year also saw a steady rise in people quitting. The quits rate for January increased slightly from 1.9 percent to 2.0 percent, but the quits rate increased 17 percent year-over-year. In January 2015, 2.8 million people voluntarily left their jobs, representing a steady climb from the 2.7 million people who quit in December, and the 2.6 million who quit in November. Quits increased for several industries throughout 2014, including for professional and business services, and accommodation and food services.

Separations generally increased over the year, but dropped from 4.9 million in December 2014 to 4.8 million in January.

There were 1.7 million layoffs and discharges in January—little changed from December and little changed over the 12 months ending in January. The number of layoffs and discharges increased in mining and logging, construction and the federal government. The number decreased over the year in finance and insurance, educational services, and health care and social assistance.

“HR professionals are often most interested in the separations data because it gives them a sense of whether or not they should expect higher employee turnover rates,” said Schramm. Overall, the data points to noticeably busier HR departments and staffing functions, she said.

On the other side of the coin, there were 5 million job openings on the last business day of January, slightly up from the December 2014 total and the highest level of job openings since January 2001. Job openings especially increased in the accommodation and food services industry, with 689,000 jobs made available. The number of job openings increased over the 12 months ending in January for all sectors.

In addition, 5 million people were hired in January 2015, down from 5.1 million in December 2014. For the 12 months ending in January 2015, hires totaled 59.1 million and separations totaled 56 million, yielding a net employment gain of 3.1 million.

“The fact that job openings are at 5 million, and that quits are rising year-over-year, indicates that this far into this year we are seeing no loss of momentum,” said Schramm.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy​​

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