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Economic Report: Workers quite their jobs at record pace in November

The numbers: Americans quitting their jobs rose by 370,000 to a record 4.5 million in November.  The quits rate rose to 3% from 2.8% in October. That also matches a prior record high.

At the same time, job openings fell by 529,000 to 10.6 million on the last day of November, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a gain to 11.1 million vacancies.

Key details: The report also showed layoffs rose by a slight 19,000 to 1.37 million. The layoffs rate was 0.9% for the fourth straight month.

Hiring rose by 191,000 jobs to 6.7 million in November. The hiring rate rose to 4.5%  from 4.4% in the prior month.

Big picture: Workers being able to quit their jobs to take better jobs is a sign of a healthy economy, according to economists. But nothing is simple. Some analysts worry that high quits rate may lead to higher wage inflation and cause the Fed to step on the brakes to cool the economy.

Experts noted the large rise in quitting was concentrated in low wage sectors. That may mitigate inflation concern.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said last month that the JOLTS data is important for his team as they chart interest-rate policy.

The JOLTS data usually comes out after the government’s employment report but this month that data will be released on Friday. Economists expect that 422,000 jobs were created last month and the unemployment rate will slip to 4.1% from 4.2%. The health of the labor market will be key for the timing of any Fed rate hikes.

Investors now see a greater than 50% chance the Fed hikes interest rates in March.

The data is pre-omicron.

What are they saying? “The private sector quits rate hit an all-time high of 3.4%. Whether these conditions continue into 2022 is one of the biggest questions for the year ahead,” said Nick Bunker, director of research at Indeed Hiring Lab.

Market reaction: Stocks DJIA, +0.67% SPX, -0.16% moved higher at the open on Tuesday on a continuation of the upbeat mood from the strong start to the trading year.

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