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Manufacturing Contributes Little to Great Resignation, Labor Data Shows

Jan. 4, 2022
While quit rate is elevated in industry, the sectors worst affected are services like hotels and restaurants.

While a record number of people in the U.S. quit their jobs in November, manufacturing did not contribute much to the Great Resignation.

Data released January 4 by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021, most of them in finance or industries directly affected by the pandemic like services at hotels, restaurants, doctors offices and hospitals.

The total number of private job separations—an umbrella term used by the BLS that includes workers quitting and being laid off—rose from 5.9 million in October to 6.3 million in November, but separations in manufacturing were stable month-over-month. Preliminary data indicates manufacturers lost 420,000 workers in both October and November. Estimates indicate that 293,000 of those leaving employees voluntarily quit last month, down from 298,000 recorded quits in October.

Taking the number of employees in each industry to account, the private economy’s job separation rate rose from 4.0 to 4.2% of the workforce in November, while the separation rate for manufacturing specifically fell from 3.4 to 3.3%.

At the same time, the hiring rate in manufacturing fell by about 5,000 people between October and November 2021 from 482,000 to 472,000. The number of people hired by durable goods production companies remained stable at 270,000 new hires, but the number of new hires at nondurable goods companies fell by 10,000 people to 202,000 new employees.

Despite the stable rate of separations, manufacturing employers did report a higher-than-normal quit rate compared to past years. In November 2020, 57% of private workers and 64% of manufacturing workers who left their jobs did so by voluntarily quitting. In November 2021, those numbers jumped to 72% and 70%, respectively.

Also, the number of unfilled manufacturing jobs fell to a 5-month low of 858,000 positions in October, down from a 948,000 peak in September. In the broader economy, openings also fell in November, hitting 10.6 million, down from the 11.1 million unfilled jobs numbers from July and October.

About the Author

Ryan Secard | Associate Editor


Focus: Workforce and labor issues; machining and foundry management

Associate Editor Ryan Secard covers topics relevant to the manufacturing workforce, including recruitment, safety, labor organizations, and the skills gap. Ryan has written IndustryWeek's Salary Survey annually since 2021 and has coordinated its Talent Advisory Board since September 2023.

Ryan got started at IndustryWeek in August 2019 as an editorial intern and was hired as a news editor in 2020 before his 2023 promotion to associate editor, talent. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the College of Wooster.

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