4.5m in US quit their jobs in November

Recruiters speak with a potential applicant during a tailgate job fair in Leesburg, Virginia, on Oct 21. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

More than 4.5 million people in the United States quit their jobs in November, the largest number since the "great resignation" started during the pandemic, according to Labor Department data released on Tuesday.

That means 370,000 more people quit their jobs in November than in October.

Job openings in November were at 10.6 million, but there were only 7 million people looking for a job then.

The job openings available were above the pre-pandemic level. The unemployment rate for November was reduced by 0.4 percentage point to 4.2 percent.

Resignations were especially high in retail, accommodation and food services, professional and business services, healthcare and social assistance. Those industries also have a high number of openings.

Workers were most likely to quit their jobs in the hospitality industry, which had by far the highest resignation rateļ¼6.1 percent in November.

The various reasons why people quit include burnout, insufficient pay, fear of getting the virus, shortage of child care services, the desire to stay home with children, and wanting to start a new career.

While healthcare workers are quitting mostly due to the stress from having to deal with the pandemic up close, a large number of US workers are quitting because of low pay.

"This Great Resignation story is really more about lower-wage workers finding new opportunities in a reopening labor market and seizing them," said Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab, to The New York Times.

Overall, there are fewer people participating in the US labor market now, compared with before the pandemic. Labor Department data showed the overall labor participation rate for November was 61.8 percent, below the 63.3 percent in January 2020.

Tight supply

Heidi Shierholz, president of the Economic Policy Institute, told The Guardian that things are looking pretty tight given the available supply of labor right now.

"But there are millions on the sidelines who will come in, once the labor supply suppressing effects of COVID-19 are in the rear-view mirror," she said.

Others are less optimistic than Shierholz.

"The imbalance between labor supply and demand is large enough that even a moderate improvement in conditions would not be enough to make it easy to hire again," said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor, in a recent blogpost about 2022 workplace trends. "There simply is no silver bullet to fix labor shortages."

Many quit their jobs to find better pay or more flexibility, and some chose to participate in the gig economy, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found.