Quit Rates Jump to 17-Year High in March

The percentage of unemployment due to people who voluntarily quit their jobs jumped to 13.1 percent in March, the highest level since May of 2001. This statistic is a good measure of workers’ confidence in the labor market, since it means that they are prepared to leave a job even before they have a new one lined up. Until this month, the quit rate had been unusually low (mostly under 11.0 percent) given the levels of unemployment we were seeing. The March level is more consistent with an unemployment rate near 4.0 percent.

This is also coinciding with some evidence of an uptick in wage growth. While the year-over-year rate was just 2.7 percent, the annualized rate, compared the average for the last three months (January, February, and March) with the prior three months (October, November, and December), was 3.2 percent. This suggests that workers may finally be getting back some of the share of income they lost to profits in the Great Recession.