About 4.3 million people quit their jobs in December at a rate of 2.9%, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This number represented a slight improvement from the record 4.5 million Americans who quit their jobs in November (at a rate of 3%) though the number of quits is still hovering at near record high levels.
Accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance and construction all saw a decrease of quits in December. The number of people who quit their retail jobs in December was roughly 759,000 at a rate of 4.9%.
At the same time, layoffs hit a record low at 1.2 million. The discharge rate was 0.8%, a series low. In retail, layoffs and discharges decreased by 67,000. Layoffs increase by 14,000 in federal government.
There were 10.9 million job openings as of the last business day of December.
Only 199,000 non-farm payrolls were added in December, according to previously released data from the Labor Department. This number fell short of economists’ predictions for an increase of 422,000 jobs and marked a decrease from the 210,000 jobs added in November. There was little to no employment changes in major industries such as retail, information, financial activities, health care and government.
As a record number of people quit their jobs, labor shortages are becoming an even bigger problem for retailers who need to keep stores staffed. In general, a reluctance for workers to return to stressful retail jobs with low pay and unreliable hours has led to a major labor shortage across the retail industry.
Some retailers have introduced increased pay, benefits and sign-on bonuses and have held hiring events to attract and retain enough workers to meet consumer demand.
At the same time, a record number of Americans have been calling in sick to their jobs, as COVID-19 cases surge across the country. Almost 8.8 million people did not go to work between Dec. 29 and Jan. 10 because they were sick or caring for someone who was sick with COVID-19 symptoms, Census Bureau data showed. These results suggest that the spread of the Omicron variant is impacting workers’ ability to show up to their jobs.
Overall, a national “sick out” combined with record-high quit rates is impacting retail, which relies on staff members to keep stores open and running. Last month, FN reported that Lululemon, Nike, Starbucks and Macy’s had all implemented new shortened hours in some locations, as retailers struggled to keep stores staffed during the pandemic.