The March Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a labor market stuck in neutral. Job openings declined by 111,000, and the number of hires and separations also dropped, by 74,000 and 28,000, respectively.
In her analysis, EPI economist Heidi Shierholz explains that the current low number of voluntary quits indicates that job opportunities remain scarce and employed workers, particularly young workers, are therefore much less able to quit the job they have and find one that pays better or more closely matches their skills and interests. In 2006, nearly 3 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs each month. That dropped to a low of 1.6 million in August 2009. It has since been generally increasing, but it is still extremely low relative to before the Great Recession, and progress is bumpy and slow. In March, the number of voluntary quits held steady (increased by 1,000) at 2.5 million, nearly 17 percent below its prerecession level.
“While the low level of voluntary quits represents lost opportunities for workers of all ages, it illustrates a critical loss of opportunities for young workers, including new high school and college graduates, because they are more likely to be in the process of identifying their own abilities and interests and tend to change jobs more frequently than older workers as they search for a job that is a good match and that either pays more or has better potential for wage growth,” said Shierholz.
For more on the labor market prospects of young workers, see our recent paper, The Class of 2014: The Weak Economy Is Idling Too Many Young Graduates.