scorecardHere are the states where the most Americans quit their jobs in December
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Here are the states where the most Americans quit their jobs in December

Ben Winck,Madison Hoff   

Here are the states where the most Americans quit their jobs in December
PolicyPolicy3 min read
  • The labor shortage intensified in December as quits remained elevated and job openings rose.
  • New data reveals which states saw the shortage ease, and which struggled the most to fill openings.

The US ended 2021 with an unexpected jump in job openings. The labor shortage charged into the new year, and new monthly data reveals which states were struggling with it the most just before the start of 2022.

Quitting broadly declined across the country, with total walkouts falling to 4.3 million from 4.5 million. Yet a handful of states still saw their quit rates increase as the Omicron variant spread rapidly and fueled new shakeups in the labor market.

Alaska saw the biggest jump, with its quit rate climbing 1.6 percentage points to 5.5%. That was the highest quit rate of any US state or Washington, DC, in December. However, it could be just a one-month anomaly in the data. Before November's rate of 3.9%, the state had a quit rate of 3.6% in September and 3.2% in October.

Virginia's increase followed behind Alaska's increase in its quit rate in December with a 0.7 point gain to 3.3%.

The overall drop in quits was largely fueled by the 13 states that enjoyed significant declines in their quit rates. New Hampshire saw the largest drop, with the state registering a rate of 2.8% after posting a 4.4% rate in November. Montana's quit rate fell to 3.3% from 4.3%, marking the second-largest decline of December.

The following map highlights where quit rates were highest and lowest in the US at the end of last year:

Nationwide data showed the labor shortage intensifying through the last weeks of 2021. Openings rose to 10.9 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dashing expectations for a drop to 10.3 million. And while quits dropped to 4.3 million, it still marked the sixth straight month that more than 4 million people walked out of their jobs. Overall, there were 47.4 million quits throughout 2021, more than any year in the country's history.

January hiring data suggests the situation eased somewhat at the start of the new year. The US added 467,000 nonfarm payrolls last month, trouncing the median forecast for a gain of 150,000 new jobs. Labor force participation also improved, signaling more people were coming off the sidelines and seeking work. January job openings and quits data wont be published until mid-March, but signs point to a healthy improvement to the labor shortage.

Job openings leap higher in Alaska and Wyoming

In December, the US job openings rate stayed the same at 6.8%, but throughout the country opening rates varied. Alaska not only had the highest quit rate in the last month of the year but the highest job openings rate with an increase of 0.5 percentage points to 9.3%.

The following map shows what job openings looked like across the country in December 2021:

Wyoming led the way in changes in job opening rates across the US; the state saw this rate rise by 1.8 percentage points to 8.9%. Four states, including New York, saw their openings' rates go down by 0.5 percentage points in December.

Pennsylvania saw the second largest increase in its openings rates, right below Wyoming, with a gain of 1.1 percentage points. This state also saw the largest increase in the number of job openings in December, a gain of 73,000.

Women in particular were impacted by school closures and childcare disruptions during Omicron according to an analysis of January quits data by gender from Gusto's platform. But people across the US have been quitting their jobs for a wide range of reasons, from moving on to better-paying roles to wanting to transfer skills to a new opportunity.