Worker Confidence Grows: Quits Rate Highest Since 2008

By Roy Maurer May 15, 2015
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Some 2.8 million people quit their jobs in March 2015, up slightly from 2.7 million in February and the most in seven years, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary report showed that the quits rate is back to pre-recession levels, indicating rising confidence in finding new opportunities.

“When the quits rate goes up HR can assume they will need to be prepared for increased voluntary turnover rates because it is a sign that workers are more confident about leaving their jobs and finding new positions,” said Jennifer Schramm, SHRM-SCP, manager of workforce trends at the Society for Human Resource Management. Schramm said that while the quits rate is basically unchanged from the previous month, the longer trend numbers show “a sense that turnover may be starting to pick up slightly.”

The number of quits increased in March in the retail trade, accommodation and food services industries. Quits decreased in health care and social assistance. Year over year, quits increased in several industries including retail, health care and hospitality.

“Overall the report indicates that there is a little more churn in the job market as jobs are added and employees leave to find new opportunities,” Schramm said.

Job openings fell in March 2015 by 150,000 to 5 million, the second-highest level since 2001.

“Dropping under the 5 million mark would be a concern so it will be interesting to see what next month’s report finds,” Schramm said.

Over the 12 months ending in March 2015, hires totaled 59.7 million and separations totaled 56.7 million, yielding a net employment gain of 3 million. About 1.7 unemployed people were vying for every opening in March, compared with 1.8 when the recession began, according to the BLS. During the recession, the ratio peaked at 6.2 workers per opening.

Total separations for March 2015—including quits, layoffs and discharges—rose to 5 million from 4.7 million in February. There were 1.8 million layoffs and discharges in March 2015, up from 1.6 million in February.

The wait-and-see trend continues, said Schramm. “After the April Employment Situation Report that many saw as a relief but not a confirmation that the economy was regaining its momentum, we now have a job openings and turnover report that is mostly unchanged from the previous month. There is a lot of discussion right now about how the economy can be read as a glass half empty or half full depending on your temperament. The April jobs numbers weren’t bad compared to the first quarter of fairly disappointing numbers but were not so great that we could say those months were an anomaly and now we are out of the woods. This report gives a similar impression.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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