About 3.1 million Americans quit their jobs in December.
That’s an increase of about 7 percent from the prior month, according to the latest jobs data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
It’s also higher than it’s been since December 2006, before the recession started, MarketWatch reports.
This level of quitting indicates workers are confident in their ability to find a new job. Economists believe that confidence will fuel stronger wage gains, according to MarketWatch.
MarketWatch reports that Wells Fargo economists commented in a research note Tuesday:
“The pickup in quits reflects workers feeling additional job opportunities are more widely available. Job switching is an important source of an individual’s wage growth. In addition to firms having to compete more heavily via wages as the labor market tightens, the bump in wages reflects the presumed productivity enhancements of better matching workers with available jobs.”
The Department of Labor also reports that the number of job openings increased in December, reaching a total of 5.6 million openings.
The fields with the highest job openings rates for December, all in the private sector, are:
- Professional and business services: 4.9 percent
- Education and health services: 4.7 percent
- Leisure and hospitality: 4.4 percent
Reuters reports that small businesses experienced a shortage of qualified workers to fill job openings in December, which prompted some to start boosting wages to attract and retain qualified employees. The percentage of small businesses that boosted wages reached its highest level since 2007.
According to the Reuters’ report, Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York, noted:
“The combination of more job openings and more people quitting could result in pay increases, and we have seen a few other signs that wages have increased as the labor market has tightened.”
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