- A first-of-its-kind report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals where Americans are quitting their jobs the most.
- August quit rates were highest in Kentucky and Idaho, while they sat below the US average in California and New York.
- The new data suggests the labor shortage is most intense in less populous states as employers scramble to retain workers.
Americans are quitting their jobs in droves, but the wave of walkouts is far from even.
The US is in the middle of a unique phenomenon. A record 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, according to Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier in October. That accounts for 3% of the US workforce and marks a fifth straight month of roughly 4 million quits. Deemed the “Great Resignation,” the trend has intensified the labor shortage seen across the country.
Some parts of the US are seeing far more quits than others. The Bureau of Labor Statistics published state-specific JOLTS data for the first time on Friday, revealing just how uneven the Great Resignation is.
The results suggest the biggest surges in quits took place in less dense states. Kentucky saw the most activity, with its quit rate, or the share of employed workers who quit their jobs in the month, hitting 4.5% in August and exceeding all other states' readings. Georgia and Idaho followed with rates of 4.2% and 4.1%, respectively. Alaska had the fourth-highest rate of 3.9%.
Conversely, areas with the highest populations had much lower quit rates. The District of Columbia had the lowest quit rate of 1.7%. Pennsylvania followed with a 2.1% rate. New York and California, two of the country's most populous states, had quit rates of 2.2% and 2.5%, respectively.
"One thing that stands out is the low quits rates in more urban states," Nick Bunker, economic research director for North America at the Indeed Hiring Lab, told Insider in an email.
He noted the low rates in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and DC in August.
"This isn't surprising as the mix of jobs in urban areas is more geared toward lower turnover industries," he added.
Quits typically rise when people are confident in their abilities to find work elsewhere. State job-openings data backs the thesis, as many states with the highest quit rates also had the highest rates of job openings. Alaska had the highest openings rate of 9%, but Kentucky followed with a 8.2% rate. Georgia and Idaho also boasted openings rates that exceeded the national average of 6.6%.
Combining the openings data with figures on state unemployment levels, Hawaii emerges with the highest ratio of unemployed workers to job openings of 1.3. California, Connecticut, and New York followed, suggesting denser and more populous states are struggling the least with the labor shortage. In total, only eight states had more unemployed workers than job openings in August.
On the other end of the spectrum, Nebraska had the lowest ratio of 0.3, meaning it had roughly three job openings for each jobless person. Utah, New Hampshire, and Vermont followed.
Bunker said he's not sure why the ratio was so low in Nebraska but is looking "forward to getting to know this data better" as this was the first monthly state JOLTS news release.
The Friday report reveals two Americas. The most densely packed states face a modest labor shortage and elevated quits, but the fallout is minor. In less populated states, however, employers will likely struggle for some time to rehire and retain their staff even as the country broadly recovers.