Job seekers at a career fair in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. (Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

U.S. Job Openings Hit Record, Quit Rate Reaches 17-Year High

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. job openings rose in July to a fresh record and the biggest share of workers since 2001 quit their positions, adding to signs of labor-market strength that may push wages higher, Labor Department data showed Tuesday.

Highlights of Job Openings (July)

  • Number of positions waiting to be filled increased by 117k to 6.94m (est. 6.68m) from an upwardly revised 6.82m in June, according to Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS
  • Hiring little changed at 5.68m; hiring rate unchanged at 3.8%
  • Quits rate rose to 17-year high of 2.4% from 2.3%; 3.58m Americans quit their jobs, up from 3.48m
U.S. Job Openings Hit Record, Quit Rate Reaches 17-Year High

Key Takeaways

Job postings exceeded the number of unemployed people by 659,000 in July, the most in data back to 2000. Along with the number of quitters, the gap helps explain why wages rose in August at the fastest pace since 2009, as employers struggle to find qualified workers and Americans become more confident in leaving their jobs for better pay elsewhere amid Republican-backed tax cuts that have boosted the economy.

The rise in the quits rate was driven by private-sector employees, whose share of people voluntarily leaving their jobs rose to 2.7 percent, also the highest since 2001 and up from 2.4 percent in February. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has highlighted the quits rate as suggesting that the economy is near full employment.

U.S. Job Openings Hit Record, Quit Rate Reaches 17-Year High

A separate survey from the National Federation of Independent Business showed 38 percent of U.S. small businesses had openings that they couldn’t fill in August, a record in data back to 1973.

Although it lags the Labor Department’s other jobs data by a month, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly employment figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring.