Record number of American workers leaving their jobs

WASHINGTON: Record numbers of U.S. workers leaving their jobs and a slowdown in hiring at frontline businesses may show the latest wave of COVID-19 is squeezing labor supply, pushing perhaps the Federal Reserve to conclude that employment is approaching its practical limits.
Hiring data tracked by corporate payroll managers Homebase and UKG showed a slight drop in employment through December, coinciding with a record outbreak of coronavirus infections caused by the Omicron variant.
Data from both companies showed larger seasonal declines this year than in 2020, with employment in Homebase’s sample of small businesses falling about 15% in the final days of 2021, compared to a drop of ‘about 10% last year.
UKG saw shiftwork in various industries fall 1.7% in December compared to a drop of 0.3% in the same period last year and a drop of 0.8% in December 2019.
“The data shows a sharp drop from mid-December,” wrote Dave Gilbertson, UKG vice president.
At the same time, new government data for November showed workers were leaving jobs in record numbers, especially lower-paying and often front-line positions in the service sector where health risks are considered more acute. and less available work-from-home options. .
With jobs still close to record highs and consumer demand holding up despite the wave of infections, economists say it could mean more pressure on companies to raise wages – and more pressure on the market. Fed to declare that its “maximum employment” target was close to being met, if not already exceeded.
Achieving that target is one of the US central bank’s forerunners to raise interest rates, and policymakers at the Fed’s December 14-15 meeting indicated they believe the key benchmark is near. . The minutes of that meeting are expected to be released on Wednesday, providing more details on a session in which the Fed embarked on a more concerted fight against inflation which is nearly three times its target rate of 2% per year and laid the groundwork for an interest rate hike as early as March.
In an essay published on the Medium website, Minneapolis Fed Chairman Neel Kashkari prominent among Fed officials who wanted to delay interest rate hikes in hopes of spurring more growth Jobs said at last month’s meeting he had scheduled two rate hikes for 2022 in part because of doubts about how many people will soon be ready to return to work.
“Wages are now increasing rapidly in various income groups,” Kashkari wrote, explaining the drastic shift in his political outlook. “The job market has not fully recovered from the COVID-19 shock… But it is not clear how long it will take for all former workers to return. For now, at least it appears that the demand for workers exceeds supply. ”
The US Department of Labor is due to release its December jobs report on Friday.
How the wave of infections at Omicron is influencing the economy and the Fed stays on the move. Some analysts have cut their economic growth forecasts for 2022 in the wake of the pandemic’s latest turn – but not by much given the scale of infections now eclipsing previous outbreaks.
So far, the new variant appears to be less dangerous – deaths and hospitalizations are not increasing as much as the number of cases – and data on air travel through December, for example, has not shown that consumers were rushing to isolate themselves.
At the end of November, there were more than 1.5 jobs open for every person who declared themselves unemployed, another record that reflects a labor market where wage growth looks set to continue, with workers resigning for more. better conditions, a higher salary or to avoid getting sick.
“Lots of resignations mean increased bargaining power for workers which will likely translate into solid wage gains,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research for The Indeed Hiring Lab, a branch of the employment and recruiting website. “Salary growth has been very strong in 2021… We could see the same thing in 2022.”

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