The U.S. government’s job quits rate,” reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) each month, is a measure of voluntary departures from employment. Workers who retired or transferred to another location are excluded from the quits rate but are included among “other separations” from employment. In addition, workers are classified as having been discharged or laid off, separating from their jobs involuntarily.
The quits rate stood at 2.8% in May 2022, up from a recent low of 1.6% in April 2020, seasonally adjusted. The increase since 2019 – when the quits rate averaged 2.3% for the year – is less sizable. The overall job separations rate stood at 3.9% in May 2022, about the same as a pre-pandemic average of 3.8% in 2019.
Not all workers who quit a job voluntarily one month are employed the next month. Based on its survey of business establishments, the BLS estimates roughly 4 million workers had quit their jobs each month in 2022. Separately, based on the Current Population Survey (CPS), a survey of households, the BLS reports that roughly 800,000 workers who were unemployed in an average month in 2022 were job leavers. Although these two estimates are based on different universes, they suggest that a substantial share of workers who voluntarily quit their jobs are unemployed, at least temporarily. Yet others may be taking a break from work.
The measures used in The U.S. government’s job quits rate
This report focuses on three groups of workers who have seen a change in their employment status since the previous month. One group consists of workers who changed employers. They had jobs in both time periods but made a switch, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. It is possible that some of these workers were unemployed for up to four weeks in the transition from one job to the next. This group differs from the universe for the quits rate for two reasons: It includes involuntary departures, but it excludes those who were either unemployed or not seeking work the next month.
The second group of workers in the report consists of those who separated from employment but were still unemployed the next month. The third group is comprised of workers who were not seeking work in the month following a job separation. They are not necessarily retired and may return to work later.
The estimates in this report are derived from the CPS, whereas the official quits and separation rates are based on a survey of establishments. There are several differences between these two surveys, including the fact that only the CPS encompasses the unincorporated self-employed, unpaid family workers, agricultural workers and private household workers.