Economic Snapshot | Unions and Labor Standards

Workers’ ‘quit rates’ not recovering

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Snapshot for June 30, 1999

Workers’ ‘quit rates’ not recovering

Until the mid 1990s, the share of voluntary ‘job leavers,’ those workers who quit their jobs to look for better ones, followed the business cycle. Historically, when times are good and unemployment is low, the share of job leavers has risen, reflecting both lower levels of layoffs and workers’ greater confidence about their ability to migrate to better paying jobs. Correspondingly, during times of poor economic growth and high unemployment, the share of job leavers typically has fallen, reflecting both an influx of involuntarily displaced workers and pessimism regarding job mobility.

During the economic recovery in the 1990s, however, the share of job leavers has not recovered along with the rest of the economy. The percentage of job leavers in 1998, at 11.8%, remained unchanged from the previous year. Likely causes for this trend are the continued high level of job displacement in the 1990s recovery as well as workers’ ongoing anxieties about job security. The figure below shows “quit rates” as a percentage of the total number of unemployed workers in the U.S. workforce, from 1967 to 1998.


Source: The State of Working America 1998-99 and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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