Chart of the week: The tepid monthly employment numbers in D.C. hide the great churn

January 28, 2022
  • Yesim Sayin
  • Bailey McConnell
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D.C. employment has not grown in recent months. However, this is not because of lack of job openings. In fact, we are experiencing a historically high level of job openings with an average of 41,000 job openings per month between June and November 2021—that is more than 5 percent of total employment in D.C.

But employment is not growing because employers are slower at hiring new employees, and more people are leaving their jobs at rates faster than we have ever observed.

  • Hiring:  Employers hired, on average, 21,000 workers each month during the six-month period between June and November 2021 or approximately 2.9 percent of the total employment. In the same six-month period, but pre-pandemic in 2019, this number was 24,500 (and 3 percent of employment).
  • Layoffs and discharges: Employers are now laying off employees at slightly lower rates than they did prior to the pandemic.
  • Quits: More people are leaving their jobs than ever before: In the six-month period between June and November 2021, on average 2 percent of the workforce in DC left their jobs. This is a trend getting a lot of attention now, but it is not new. Quit rates have been on the rise since after the Great Recession. Between 2011 and 2013, on a given month about 1 percent of the workers left their jobs; between 2014 and 2016, that share was 1.3 percent; and by 2019, it has increased to 1.7 percent.

The increase in job openings is mixed news.

On the plus side, businesses are hiring because they are either experiencing higher demand for their goods and services or expect to do so in the near future. On the minus side, job openings have been consistently above hires in 2021, which indicates that employers are having a hard time filing these positions.  It is possible that remote work has opened more possibilities for area workers. It is also possible that fewer workers are interested in taking a job in D.C. or the metropolitan region.


Yesim Sayin

Executive Director
D.C. Policy Center

Yesim Sayin is the founding Executive Director of the D.C. Policy Center.

With over twenty years of public policy experience in the District of Columbia, Dr. Sayin is recognized by policymakers, advocates and the media as a source of reliable, balanced analyses on the District’s economy and demography.  Yesim’s research interests include economic and fiscal policy, urban economic development, housing, and education. She is especially focused on how COVID-19 pandemic is changing regional and interregional economic interdependencies and what this means for urban policy. Her work is frequently covered in the media, including the Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, WAMU, and the Washington City Paper, among others.

Before joining the D.C. Policy Center, Dr. Sayin worked at the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer leading the team that scored the fiscal impact of all legislation the District considered. She frequently testified on high profile legislation and worked closely with the executive and Council staff to ensure that policymakers fully understand the fiscal implications of their proposed legislation. Yesim also has worked in the private sector, and consulted with international organization on a large portfolio of public finance topics.

Yesim holds a Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from Bogazici University, located in Istanbul, Turkey. 

Bailey McConnell

Former Research Director, Rivlin Initiative
D.C. Policy Center

Bailey McConnell is Research Director for the D.C. Policy Center’s Alice M. Rivlin Initiative for Economic Policy & Competitiveness. In this role, she assists with the management and implementation of the Policy Center’s economic and competitiveness research. Prior to joining the D.C. Policy Center, Bailey worked as a Research Analyst in the Washington, D.C. office of HR&A Advisors, a real estate consulting firm. She has also worked as an Legislative Intern with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and as an Economic Opportunity and Financial Inclusion Intern with the National League of Cities. 

Bailey is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Boston University. 

You can reach Bailey at