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.