The rate at which workers quit their jobs—seen by many economists as a sign of confidence in the labor market—fell slightly to a seasonally adjusted 2.1% in August from 2.2% in July, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as Jolts, released Wednesday.
The quits rate, or the share of employed people who voluntarily leave their jobs in a month, has held nearly steady for two years after slowly climbing after the recession ended in mid-2009. The sideways move in the quits rate comes at a time when the unemployment rate has fallen to a 16-year low and the number of available jobs has touched the highest level on records back to 2000.
The country shed 33,000 jobs in September, the first loss in seven years, the Labor Department said Friday, ending the longest stretch of job growth on record.
But that decline was skewed down by Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in late August, and Irma, which hit Florida in early September. The storms came just before businesses filled out monthly surveys of payrolls, which are submitted to the government and used to tabulate hiring. Many businesses reported reduced payrolls during the survey week of Sept. 12. Employment in the restaurant industry, in particular, took a big hit, falling 105,000 in September from the month before, after averaging growth of 29,000 during the prior six months.
Weakness in the labor market doesn’t adequately explain why fewer men are working or seeking jobs, according to a new paper published by economist Scott Winship and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. One big contributor is the rising number of men in their prime working years–aged 25 to 54–who are getting federal disability benefits, or report being disabled, and who are not actively searching for jobs, Mr. Winship concludes. This suggests there is less slack in the labor market—such as people who could be drawn in off the sidelines—than many policy makers believe.
California’s slowing economic expansion was evident in August as the state lost 8,200 net jobs and the unemployment rate rose to 5.1%, from 4.8% a month earlier, according to data released Friday from the state’s Employment Development Department. The drop in employment follows a robust July in which the Golden State gained the most jobs in more than a year: 84,500, revised up from a previous estimate of 82,600. August’s slide back was in large part driven by employers in the leisure and hospitality sector: They cut 12,400 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis — the largest decrease by any sector in the state. Professional and business services and the public sector also lost jobs. Manufacturing and the trade, transportation and utilities sector, meanwhile, gained jobs.
The pace of hiring slowed in August, while the U.S. unemployment rate edged up.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by a seasonally adjusted 156,000 in August from the prior month, the Labor Department said. The unemployment rate rose to 4.4% from 4.3%, though the level remains historically low. Wages maintained a modest growth rate.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 179,000 new jobs and a 4.3% unemployment rate last month.