Workers in the US quit a record 4.4 million jobs in September. Many Americans are leaving their positions for better working conditions and pay amid a historically rapid economic recovery.
However, the wave of resignations is not uniform across the country. Western states, including Hawaii, Montana, Utah and Oregon, saw the greatest growth in layoffs in September, according to the Department of Labor. Eighteen states broke or equated their firing rate records in September.
High turnover industries resulted in layoffs in the western United States in September and resulted in many northeastern states seeing a faster rise in layoffs since the beginning of this year. Resignations in the education sector – which accounts for a larger share of employment in the northeastern states than many others – have risen the fastest in any industry since January. The reopening deadlines and vaccination rates have also helped boost employer demand for labor in the Northeast this year.
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Montana has the largest share of the country’s employment in the arts, entertainment, and leisure sectors, which includes jobs in museums, theaters, and amusement parks. The state saw the second-fastest increase in layoffs in the US after Hawaii in September, when arts, entertainment and leisure saw a sharp 82% increase from the previous month. In other western states with relatively high numbers of employees in the arts, including Utah, Colorado, and Nevada, layoffs increased rapidly.
The number of job vacancies has grown fastest in the northeast since January, after the region’s labor market hit in 2020. The New York area was one of the first in the US to be badly hit by the pandemic, and leaders in the northeastern states imposed strict business restrictions and made them last longer than many other areas. However, many northeastern states fully reopened their economies this summer and recorded relatively high vaccination rates – factors that converged to fuel robust employer demand for labor.
As job vacancies increased, dismissal became a more attractive option for workers in the Northeast. Several states in the region – including New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island – have seen one of the fastest increases in layoffs in the US since January. These individuals are likely to leave their jobs for better opportunities, including positions with higher pay, remote working options, and an improved work-life balance.
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However, high quitting rates in a particular region do not always indicate that a rapid labor market recovery is underway there. “The big resignation that we have discussed so far has not only to do with the fact that there are many vacancies,” said Sinem Buber, an economist at the ZipRecruiter job exchange. For example, the number of layoffs increased in Hawaii this year, although job vacancies remained depressed. Layoffs in Hawaii have risen recently since the State discouraged tourists from visiting during a surge in Delta virus cases. More people could quit their jobs in Hawaii and take time off while the pandemic continues or leave the state altogether. The number of employed or job seekers in Hawaii is about 1.4% fewer than at the beginning of the year.
Since January, layoffs have increased the most in all areas of education services, which include teachers, caretakers, and career counselors. Many teachers have resigned or retired early because of the pandemic. The states with the highest share of jobs in education are concentrated in the northeast and have also seen one of the strongest increases in layoffs in percentage terms since the beginning of this year.
The rapid rise in layoffs shows that the labor market is historically tense. Employers struggle to find workers to fill a wide variety of job postings as demand picks up. There are around 10 job offers for every seven job seekers.
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Businesses raise wages to attract workers in a competitive market. Wages and salaries in the private sector rose sharply in all regions in the third quarter compared to the previous year and were particularly strong in the south.
Many workers who quit are likely to reap pay increases. Job hoppers tend to see bigger wage increases than people who stay there.
This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal