State of the Facts
The quit rate, which measures the number of jobs quit as a percentage of total employment, reached 2.8% in April 2021, the highest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began collecting data in 2001. This record high quit rate occurred while the unemployment rate was 6.1%, still 2.6 percentage points above pre-pandemic levels.
Quit rates typically trend down as unemployment rates go up. For example, the lowest recorded quit rate of 1.2% came in August and September 2009. At that time, the unemployment rate was 9.6% and 9.8%, respectively. Over time, as the unemployment rate dropped, the quit rate rose.
The pandemic led to a record high unemployment rate of 14.8% in April 2020. The quit rate decreased to 1.6% but did not fall as low as the rate set in 2009.
Data from the last 20 years shows that the leisure and hospitality sector consistently has the highest quit rates of any industry. That has remained true throughout the pandemic and in the most recent BLS data from May 2021.
Government, information, and financial activities had the lowest quit levels in May 2021 and historically. While quit rates for all industries dipped in the spring 2020, they rose in the fall. More than half of the industries had a higher quit level in May 2021 than in February 2020.
Sectors with the highest quit rates also tend to have lower average earnings. The leisure and hospitality sector had the highest quit rate and the lowest earnings in May: $18.05 per hour. The transportation, trade, and utilities sector had the second highest quit rate and the second lowest average earnings, at $26.21 per hour. Workers in the professional services sector had the third highest average earnings, $36.42 an hour, but had the third highest quit rate of all industries.
The quit rate was lowest in the government sector, but earnings data is unavailable. The information industry had the second lowest quit rate at 1.4% and average earnings of $44.33 per hour in May 2021. The financial activities sector reported the same quit rate and average earnings of $40 an hour.
Regionally, the Northeast consistently maintains the lowest quit rates and the South the highest. In May, the Northeast reported a quit rate of 1.7%. The South reported a quit rate of 2.8%.
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