Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Measuring employer and employee confidence in the economy: the quits-to-layoffs-and-discharges ratio

By Kimberly Riley

In 2016, there were, on average, 5.2 million hires, and 5.0 million separations, per month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data show the number of workers hired into, and the number of workers separated from, jobs every month. JOLTS classifies separations into three categories. The first category, “quits,”1 consists of employees who voluntarily quit their job.The second category, “layoffs and discharges,2comprises employees who are involuntarily laid off by the organization they work for or who are discharged with cause. The third category, “other separations,” which consists of transfers, separations due to retirement, and other rare types of separations, is relatively small and remains consistent over time. The “other separations” data play a minor role in the analysis of separations.

What do these statistics tell us about employer and employee confidence in the U.S. economy? Quits tend to rise during an economic expansion and fall during an economic contraction. Therefore, quits can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave their jobs. Conversely, layoffs and discharges tend to fall during an economic expansion and rise during an economic contraction.

This Beyond the Numbers article highlights the ratio of the number of quits to the number of layoffs and discharges, or the Q/LD ratio. The ratio, which contrasts voluntary separations (Q) with involuntary separations (LD), provides a measure to gauge employers’ and employees’ confidence in the economy. The measure also can be used to analyze trends in employment levels in different industries. The Q/LD ratio is greater than 1.0 when the number of quits exceeds the number of layoffs and discharges, and is less than 1.0 when layoffs and discharges exceed quits. A value greater than 1.0 indicates that employee confidence is strong, while a value less than 1.0 indicates that employees are not so confident.

At the national level, the Q/LD ratio has been greater than 1.0 most of the time since the JOLTS survey began in December 2000. (See table 1.) The ratio reached its lowest point, 0.7, in March and April 2009, during the most recent recession, and its highest point, 2.0, in September 2016.3 From 2016 through June 2017, the ratio was frequently 1.9. 

Table 1. Total nonfarm quits-to-layoffs-and-discharges (Q/LD) ratios, December 2000–June 2017, seasonally adjusted
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2000 1.6
2001 1.6 1.8 1.5 1.7 1.5 1.6 1.5 1.5 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.3
2002 1.5 1.3 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.3 1.3
2003 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3
2004 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.4 1.3 1.5 1.5 1.4 1.4 1.5 1.4 1.4
2005 1.5 1.3 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.6 1.8 1.7 1.6
2006 1.8 1.8 1.8 1.6 1.6 1.8 1.7 1.9 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.8
2007 1.7 1.7 1.7 1.5 1.7 1.5 1.7 1.6 1.3 1.5 1.4 1.6
2008 1.5 1.5 1.4 1.6 1.4 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.2 1.1 .9 .9
2009 .8 .8 .7 .7 .8 .8 .8 .8 .8 .9 1.0 .9
2010 .9 1.0 1.0 1.1 1.0 1.0 .9 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.0 1.1
2011 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.1 1.1 1.1
2012 1.2 1.2 1.3 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.3 1.2 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.3
2013 1.4 1.4 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.3 1.6 1.5 1.4
2014 1.4 1.4 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.4 1.5 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.5
2015 1.6 1.6 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.6 1.7 1.7 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8
2016 1.7 1.6 1.7 1.7 1.7 1.9 1.9 1.8 2.0 1.9 1.9 1.9
2017 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.7
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Observations at the national level

After the 2001 recession, both the Q/LD ratio and total nonfarm employment continued to decline until 2003, when they reversed and began to increase.4 As the 2007–09 recession approached, the ratio leveled off and then began to decline because of a decrease in quits. Employment did not decline until February 2008. (See chart 1.)

During the 2007–09 recession, the Q/LD ratio decreased rapidly as a result of declining quits and increasing layoffs and discharges.5 (See chart 1.) The series fell to a low of 0.7 in March 2009. Close to 1 year later, employment reached its most recent trough, 129,733,000. Following these series lows, the Q/LD ratio and employment trended upward. Still, the ratio remained below its prerecession level until December 2013, and employment remained below its prerecession level until April 2014. The ratio reached a high of 1.9 once before the last recession and has duplicated that figure fairly regularly since 2016, peaking at 2.0 in September of that year. Employment has remained well above its prerecession level since May 2014.

View Chart Data

Chart 1. Total nonfarm employment (in thousands) and quits-to-layoffs-and-discharges (Q/LD) ratio, December 2000–June 2017, seasonally adjusted
Month and year

Employment

(thousands)

Q/LD ratio

Dec 2000

132,731 1.6

Jan 2001

132,705 1.6

Feb 2001

132,777 1.8

Mar 2001

132,752 1.5

Apr 2001

132,471 1.7

May 2001

132,433 1.5

Jun 2001

132,302 1.6

Jul 2001

132,190 1.5

Aug 2001

132,033 1.5

Sep 2001

131,793 1.3

Oct 2001

131,468 1.3

Nov 2001

131,175 1.2

Dec 2001

131,005 1.3

Jan 2002

130,867 1.5

Feb 2002

130,733 1.3

Mar 2002

130,713 1.4

Apr 2002

130,634 1.4

May 2002

130,627 1.4

Jun 2002

130,684 1.4

Jul 2002

130,599 1.4

Aug 2002

130,585 1.4

Sep 2002

130,526 1.4

Oct 2002

130,652 1.4

Nov 2002

130,662 1.3

Dec 2002

130,505 1.3

Jan 2003

130,597 1.3

Feb 2003

130,447 1.3

Mar 2003

130,238 1.3

Apr 2003

130,194 1.2

May 2003

130,186 1.2

Jun 2003

130,195 1.2

Jul 2003

130,219 1.2

Aug 2003

130,177 1.2

Sep 2003

130,281 1.3

Oct 2003

130,479 1.3

Nov 2003

130,496 1.3

Dec 2003

130,618 1.3

Jan 2004

130,780 1.2

Feb 2004

130,826 1.3

Mar 2004

131,158 1.3

Apr 2004

131,407 1.4

May 2004

131,715 1.3

Jun 2004

131,791 1.5

Jul 2004

131,835 1.5

Aug 2004

131,956 1.4

Sep 2004

132,120 1.4

Oct 2004

132,466 1.5

Nov 2004

132,530 1.4

Dec 2004

132,660 1.4

Jan 2005

132,794 1.5

Feb 2005

133,033 1.3

Mar 2005

133,169 1.5

Apr 2005

133,534 1.5

May 2005

133,708 1.5

Jun 2005

133,955 1.4

Jul 2005

134,331 1.5

Aug 2005

134,525 1.6

Sep 2005

134,593 1.6

Oct 2005

134,678 1.8

Nov 2005

135,015 1.7

Dec 2005

135,174 1.6

Jan 2006

135,452 1.8

Feb 2006

135,768 1.8

Mar 2006

136,049 1.8

Apr 2006

136,232 1.6

May 2006

136,255 1.6

Jun 2006

136,337 1.8

Jul 2006

136,544 1.7

Aug 2006

136,725 1.9

Sep 2006

136,883 1.7

Oct 2006

136,887 1.6

Nov 2006

137,095 1.6

Dec 2006

137,266 1.8

Jan 2007

137,506 1.7

Feb 2007

137,595 1.7

Mar 2007

137,785 1.7

Apr 2007

137,865 1.5

May 2007

138,008 1.7

Jun 2007

138,083 1.5

Jul 2007

138,049 1.7

Aug 2007

138,029 1.6

Sep 2007

138,117 1.3

Oct 2007

138,201 1.5

Nov 2007

138,315 1.4

Dec 2007

138,413 1.6

Jan 2008

138,430 1.5

Feb 2008

138,346 1.5

Mar 2008

138,268 1.4

Apr 2008

138,058 1.6

May 2008

137,872 1.4

Jun 2008

137,710 1.3

Jul 2008

137,497 1.3

Aug 2008

137,230 1.2

Sep 2008

136,780 1.2

Oct 2008

136,306 1.1

Nov 2008

135,540 0.9

Dec 2008

134,846 0.9

Jan 2009

134,053 0.8

Feb 2009

133,351 0.8

Mar 2009

132,528 0.7

Apr 2009

131,841 0.7

May 2009

131,492 0.8

Jun 2009

131,021 0.8

Jul 2009

130,692 0.8

Aug 2009

130,479 0.8

Sep 2009

130,259 0.8

Oct 2009

130,055 0.9

Nov 2009

130,053 1.0

Dec 2009

129,778 0.9

Jan 2010

129,801 0.9

Feb 2010

129,733 1.0

Mar 2010

129,897 1.0

Apr 2010

130,140 1.1

May 2010

130,664 1.0

Jun 2010

130,527 1.0

Jul 2010

130,459 0.9

Aug 2010

130,423 1.1

Sep 2010

130,371 1.1

Oct 2010

130,633 1.1

Nov 2010

130,752 1.0

Dec 2010

130,839 1.1

Jan 2011

130,882 1.1

Feb 2011

131,071 1.1

Mar 2011

131,296 1.2

Apr 2011

131,642 1.1

May 2011

131,719 1.2

Jun 2011

131,944 1.1

Jul 2011

132,013 1.1

Aug 2011

132,123 1.2

Sep 2011

132,371 1.2

Oct 2011

132,580 1.1

Nov 2011

132,721 1.1

Dec 2011

132,930 1.1

Jan 2012

133,288 1.2

Feb 2012

133,525 1.2

Mar 2012

133,758 1.3

Apr 2012

133,836 1.1

May 2012

133,951 1.2

Jun 2012

134,027 1.2

Jul 2012

134,170 1.3

Aug 2012

134,347 1.2

Sep 2012

134,550 1.1

Oct 2012

134,696 1.1

Nov 2012

134,828 1.2

Dec 2012

135,072 1.3

Jan 2013

135,283 1.4

Feb 2013

135,569 1.4

Mar 2013

135,699 1.2

Apr 2013

135,896 1.3

May 2013

136,122 1.3

Jun 2013

136,284 1.4

Jul 2013

136,406 1.4

Aug 2013

136,667 1.4

Sep 2013

136,857 1.3

Oct 2013

137,069 1.6

Nov 2013

137,327 1.5

Dec 2013

137,374 1.4

Jan 2014

137,564 1.4

Feb 2014

137,715 1.4

Mar 2014

137,987 1.5

Apr 2014

138,316 1.5

May 2014

138,562 1.5

Jun 2014

138,866 1.5

Jul 2014

139,068 1.4

Aug 2014

139,298 1.5

Sep 2014

139,578 1.7

Oct 2014

139,805 1.6

Nov 2014

140,117 1.6

Dec 2014

140,372 1.5

Jan 2015

140,606 1.6

Feb 2015

140,844 1.6

Mar 2015

140,930 1.4

Apr 2015

141,192 1.5

May 2015

141,536 1.6

Jun 2015

141,742 1.6

Jul 2015

141,996 1.7

Aug 2015

142,153 1.7

Sep 2015

142,253 1.5

Oct 2015

142,574 1.6

Nov 2015

142,846 1.7

Dec 2015

143,085 1.8

Jan 2016

143,211 1.7

Feb 2016

143,448 1.6

Mar 2016

143,673 1.7

Apr 2016

143,826 1.7

May 2016

143,869 1.7

Jun 2016

144,166 1.9

Jul 2016

144,457 1.9

Aug 2016

144,633 1.8

Sep 2016

144,882 2.0

Oct 2016

145,006 1.9

Nov 2016

145,170 1.9

Dec 2016

145,325 1.9

Jan 2017

145,541 1.9

Feb 2017

145,773 1.9

Mar 2017

145,823 1.9

Apr 2017

146,030 1.9

May 2017

146,175 1.9

Jun 2017

146,385 1.7

Ratio by selected industries

All industries experience a change in the ratio of quits to layoffs and discharges over the business cycle. However, regardless of the economic climate, there are also ongoing differences among the various industries—differences that are due to individual industry characteristics.6 Health care and social assistance is a high-turnover industry with very high quits and very low layoffs and discharges. In fact, quits have outnumbered layoffs and discharges by enough that the Q/LD ratio was greater than 1.0 even during the depths of the most recent recession. (See chart 2.) The only other industry for which the ratio is greater than 1.0 for the entire series is accommodation and food services. The ratio for health care and social assistance has fluctuated between 1.2 and 3.9 since the JOLTS series began in December 2000. Despite the fluctuation in the ratio, employment continued to trend upward, even during the 2001 and 2007–09 recessions, because of the high demand for health care workers. 

View Chart Data

Chart 2. Total health care and social assistance employment (in thousands) and quits-to-layoffs-and-discharges (Q/LD) ratio, December 2000–June 2017, seasonally adjusted
Month and year

Employment

(thousands)

Q/LD ratio

Dec 2000

13,025 3.0

Jan 2001

13,069 2.6

Feb 2001

13,115 3.2

Mar 2001

13,154 3.3

Apr 2001

13,190 3.7

May 2001

13,231 3.2

Jun 2001

13,280 2.6

Jul 2001

13,331 1.9

Aug 2001

13,376 2.5

Sep 2001

13,413 2.6

Oct 2001

13,452 1.7

Nov 2001

13,488 2.1

Dec 2001

13,532 2.7

Jan 2002

13,571 2.0

Feb 2002

13,603 2.1

Mar 2002

13,634 1.7

Apr 2002

13,667 2.2

May 2002

13,691 2.3

Jun 2002

13,739 2.2

Jul 2002

13,771 2.3

Aug 2002

13,810 2.0

Sep 2002

13,845 1.9

Oct 2002

13,878 2.2

Nov 2002

13,920 2.4

Dec 2002

13,942 2.5

Jan 2003

13,985 2.2

Feb 2003

14,022 2.2

Mar 2003

14,054 2.0

Apr 2003

14,095 1.9

May 2003

14,122 1.9

Jun 2003

14,146 1.9

Jul 2003

14,147 1.8

Aug 2003

14,167 2.1

Sep 2003

14,189 2.1

Oct 2003

14,225 2.2

Nov 2003

14,246 2.0

Dec 2003

14,276 2.9

Jan 2004

14,298 2.6

Feb 2004

14,319 2.1

Mar 2004

14,362 2.5

Apr 2004

14,400 2.2

May 2004

14,434 2.1

Jun 2004

14,459 2.4

Jul 2004

14,484 3.4

Aug 2004

14,515 2.2

Sep 2004

14,531 1.5

Oct 2004

14,573 2.5

Nov 2004

14,600 2.0

Dec 2004

14,630 1.8

Jan 2005

14,646 2.1

Feb 2005

14,675 2.0

Mar 2005

14,698 2.1

Apr 2005

14,733 2.4

May 2005

14,783 2.4

Jun 2005

14,828 2.5

Jul 2005

14,880 2.9

Aug 2005

14,908 2.2

Sep 2005

14,939 2.8

Oct 2005

14,964 2.5

Nov 2005

15,003 2.4

Dec 2005

15,025 2.6

Jan 2006

15,069 2.2

Feb 2006

15,104 2.7

Mar 2006

15,144 2.6

Apr 2006

15,165 2.2

May 2006

15,197 1.5

Jun 2006

15,230 2.6

Jul 2006

15,260 2.5

Aug 2006

15,291 2.8

Sep 2006

15,329 2.7

Oct 2006

15,371 2.6

Nov 2006

15,411 2.9

Dec 2006

15,459 3.2

Jan 2007

15,499 2.6

Feb 2007

15,539 3.0

Mar 2007

15,581 2.3

Apr 2007

15,635 2.7

May 2007

15,677 2.5

Jun 2007

15,726 2.0

Jul 2007

15,762 2.9

Aug 2007

15,808 2.8

Sep 2007

15,849 1.6

Oct 2007

15,878 2.0

Nov 2007

15,908 2.1

Dec 2007

15,948 2.8

Jan 2008

15,990 2.1

Feb 2008

16,026 1.9

Mar 2008

16,066 1.9

Apr 2008

16,111 2.9

May 2008

16,143 1.4

Jun 2008

16,178 2.0

Jul 2008

16,209 2.0

Aug 2008

16,244 1.8

Sep 2008

16,273 2.0

Oct 2008

16,300 1.9

Nov 2008

16,336 2.1

Dec 2008

16,371 1.5

Jan 2009

16,389 1.6

Feb 2009

16,419 1.5

Mar 2009

16,432 1.5

Apr 2009

16,445 1.2

May 2009

16,501 2.2

Jun 2009

16,522 1.7

Jul 2009

16,545 1.3

Aug 2009

16,582 1.4

Sep 2009

16,618 1.6

Oct 2009

16,641 1.6

Nov 2009

16,672 1.5

Dec 2009

16,697 1.7

Jan 2010

16,713 1.6

Feb 2010

16,727 1.3

Mar 2010

16,764 1.6

Apr 2010

16,772 1.9

May 2010

16,794 1.7

Jun 2010

16,803 1.7

Jul 2010

16,816 1.2

Aug 2010

16,843 1.7

Sep 2010

16,854 1.3

Oct 2010

16,893 1.9

Nov 2010

16,921 1.6

Dec 2010

16,939 1.5

Jan 2011

16,933 1.8

Feb 2011

16,944 1.9

Mar 2011

16,966 2.0

Apr 2011

17,001 2.2

May 2011

17,028 1.9

Jun 2011

17,046 1.3

Jul 2011

17,081 1.6

Aug 2011

17,111 1.6

Sep 2011

17,149 2.1

Oct 2011

17,179 1.8

Nov 2011

17,194 1.5

Dec 2011

17,218 1.8

Jan 2012

17,262 1.8

Feb 2012

17,314 2.4

Mar 2012

17,345 2.1

Apr 2012

17,360 1.7

May 2012

17,392 1.9

Jun 2012

17,403 1.3

Jul 2012

17,428 1.9

Aug 2012

17,450 1.8

Sep 2012

17,491 1.8

Oct 2012

17,532 1.6

Nov 2012

17,553 2.2

Dec 2012

17,596 2.2

Jan 2013

17,615 2.3

Feb 2013

17,644 1.8

Mar 2013

17,664 2.4

Apr 2013

17,708 1.9

May 2013

17,708 1.7

Jun 2013

17,726 2.0

Jul 2013

17,713 2.3

Aug 2013

17,766 2.1

Sep 2013

17,780 2.3

Oct 2013

17,790 2.4

Nov 2013

17,830 2.0

Dec 2013

17,821 2.5

Jan 2014

17,838 1.5

Feb 2014

17,860 2.0

Mar 2014

17,892 1.5

Apr 2014

17,908 1.7

May 2014

17,962 2.4

Jun 2014

17,988 2.3

Jul 2014

18,032 2.6

Aug 2014

18,075 2.3

Sep 2014

18,104 2.2

Oct 2014

18,145 2.2

Nov 2014

18,196 2.8

Dec 2014

18,242 2.3

Jan 2015

18,306 3.2

Feb 2015

18,339 3.0

Mar 2015

18,371 2.8

Apr 2015

18,450 3.0

May 2015

18,500 2.8

Jun 2015

18,539 3.4

Jul 2015

18,580 2.8

Aug 2015

18,625 3.4

Sep 2015

18,664 2.5

Oct 2015

18,728 3.0

Nov 2015

18,762 3.1

Dec 2015

18,800 2.6

Jan 2016

18,832 2.2

Feb 2016

18,884 3.2

Mar 2016

18,909 2.5

Apr 2016

18,946 3.3

May 2016

18,987 2.9

Jun 2016

19,040 2.8

Jul 2016

19,095 2.9

Aug 2016

19,134 2.1

Sep 2016

19,158 3.6

Oct 2016

19,200 2.6

Nov 2016

19,228 2.2

Dec 2016

19,267 3.2

Jan 2017

19,292 3.9

Feb 2017

19,328 3.0

Mar 2017

19,347 3.0

Apr 2017

19,395 3.0

May 2017

19,425 2.9

Jun 2017

19,475 3.1

 Since December 2000, the Q/LD ratio in the manufacturing industry has moved above and below 1.0 with the business cycle, with trends matching employment. (See chart 3.) The ratio fell below 1.0 during the 2001 and 2007–09 recessions as quits declined and layoffs and discharges rose. The ratio remained below 1.0 during the early recovery periods following the two recessions, but as quits grew and layoffs and discharges remained steady, the ratio climbed above 1.0. After the most recent recession, the ratio climbed steeply as quits increased, although employment grew much more slowly. 

View Chart Data

Chart 3. Total manufacturing employment (in thousands) and quits-to-layoffs-and-discharges (Q/LD) ratio, December 2000–June 2017, seasonally adjusted
Month and year

Employment

(thousands)

Q/LD ratio

Dec 2000

17,181 1.6

Jan 2001

17,104 1.1

Feb 2001

17,028 1.0

Mar 2001

16,938 0.9

Apr 2001

16,802 0.7

May 2001

16,661 0.7

Jun 2001

16,515 0.7

Jul 2001

16,382 0.6

Aug 2001

16,232 0.8

Sep 2001

16,117 0.7

Oct 2001

15,972 0.6

Nov 2001

15,825 0.7

Dec 2001

15,711 0.6

Jan 2002

15,587 0.7

Feb 2002

15,515 0.8

Mar 2002

15,443 0.9

Apr 2002

15,392 0.9

May 2002

15,337 0.9

Jun 2002

15,298 1.0

Jul 2002

15,256 1.0

Aug 2002

15,171 1.0

Sep 2002

15,119 0.9

Oct 2002

15,060 0.8

Nov 2002

14,992 0.8

Dec 2002

14,912 0.6

Jan 2003

14,866 0.8

Feb 2003

14,781 0.7

Mar 2003

14,721 0.7

Apr 2003

14,609 0.8

May 2003

14,557 0.9

Jun 2003

14,493 0.8

Jul 2003

14,402 0.8

Aug 2003

14,376 1.0

Sep 2003

14,347 1.0

Oct 2003

14,334 1.1

Nov 2003

14,316 1.1

Dec 2003

14,300 1.3

Jan 2004

14,290 1.2

Feb 2004

14,279 1.1

Mar 2004

14,287 1.2

Apr 2004

14,315 1.4

May 2004

14,342 1.2

Jun 2004

14,332 1.4

Jul 2004

14,330 1.2

Aug 2004

14,345 0.9

Sep 2004

14,331 1.3

Oct 2004

14,332 1.1

Nov 2004

14,307 1.3

Dec 2004

14,287 1.3

Jan 2005

14,257 1.1

Feb 2005

14,273 1.3

Mar 2005

14,269 1.3

Apr 2005

14,250 1.3

May 2005

14,256 1.2

Jun 2005

14,227 1.5

Jul 2005

14,226 1.5

Aug 2005

14,203 1.3

Sep 2005

14,175 1.5

Oct 2005

14,192 1.6

Nov 2005

14,187 1.3

Dec 2005

14,193 1.3

Jan 2006

14,210 1.4

Feb 2006

14,209 1.6

Mar 2006

14,214 1.0

Apr 2006

14,226 1.4

May 2006

14,203 1.4

Jun 2006

14,213 1.2

Jul 2006

14,188 1.4

Aug 2006

14,159 1.3

Sep 2006

14,125 1.0

Oct 2006

14,075 1.4

Nov 2006

14,041 1.6

Dec 2006

14,015 1.6

Jan 2007

14,008 1.6

Feb 2007

13,997 1.3

Mar 2007

13,970 1.4

Apr 2007

13,945 1.4

May 2007

13,929 1.5

Jun 2007

13,911 1.3

Jul 2007

13,889 1.1

Aug 2007

13,828 1.3

Sep 2007

13,790 1.0

Oct 2007

13,764 1.1

Nov 2007

13,757 1.1

Dec 2007

13,746 1.5

Jan 2008

13,725 1.4

Feb 2008

13,696 1.3

Mar 2008

13,659 1.3

Apr 2008

13,599 1.0

May 2008

13,564 1.0

Jun 2008

13,504 0.8

Jul 2008

13,430 0.9

Aug 2008

13,358 0.8

Sep 2008

13,275 0.7

Oct 2008

13,147 0.7

Nov 2008

13,034 0.6

Dec 2008

12,850 0.3

Jan 2009

12,561 0.3

Feb 2009

12,380 0.3

Mar 2009

12,208 0.3

Apr 2009

12,030 0.3

May 2009

11,862 0.3

Jun 2009

11,726 0.4

Jul 2009

11,668 0.4

Aug 2009

11,626 0.4

Sep 2009

11,591 0.5

Oct 2009

11,538 0.4

Nov 2009

11,509 0.4

Dec 2009

11,475 0.5

Jan 2010

11,460 0.5

Feb 2010

11,453 0.7

Mar 2010

11,453 0.6

Apr 2010

11,489 0.7

May 2010

11,525 0.8

Jun 2010

11,545 0.8

Jul 2010

11,561 0.6

Aug 2010

11,553 0.8

Sep 2010

11,563 0.7

Oct 2010

11,562 0.7

Nov 2010

11,585 0.7

Dec 2010

11,595 0.8

Jan 2011

11,621 0.8

Feb 2011

11,654 0.8

Mar 2011

11,675 0.9

Apr 2011

11,704 0.9

May 2011

11,713 0.9

Jun 2011

11,727 0.9

Jul 2011

11,746 1.0

Aug 2011

11,764 0.9

Sep 2011

11,769 0.9

Oct 2011

11,780 1.2

Nov 2011

11,770 1.2

Dec 2011

11,802 1.0

Jan 2012

11,838 1.0

Feb 2012

11,860 1.0

Mar 2012

11,898 1.1

Apr 2012

11,916 1.0

May 2012

11,927 1.0

Jun 2012

11,936 0.8

Jul 2012

11,964 1.0

Aug 2012

11,960 1.1

Sep 2012

11,954 1.1

Oct 2012

11,961 0.9

Nov 2012

11,950 1.0

Dec 2012

11,960 1.2

Jan 2013

11,979 1.0

Feb 2013

12,000 1.0

Mar 2013

12,002 1.0

Apr 2013

12,005 1.1

May 2013

12,003 1.0

Jun 2013

12,003 1.1

Jul 2013

11,980 1.1

Aug 2013

12,016 0.9

Sep 2013

12,033 1.2

Oct 2013

12,054 1.3

Nov 2013

12,076 1.5

Dec 2013

12,083 1.2

Jan 2014

12,088 1.0

Feb 2014

12,110 1.4

Mar 2014

12,125 1.5

Apr 2014

12,142 1.0

May 2014

12,150 1.3

Jun 2014

12,171 1.0

Jul 2014

12,184 1.6

Aug 2014

12,208 1.3

Sep 2014

12,225 1.2

Oct 2014

12,252 1.3

Nov 2014

12,275 1.1

Dec 2014

12,291 1.3

Jan 2015

12,299 1.5

Feb 2015

12,306 1.3

Mar 2015

12,319 1.2

Apr 2015

12,321 1.4

May 2015

12,337 1.4

Jun 2015

12,338 1.4

Jul 2015

12,352 1.2

Aug 2015

12,347 1.3

Sep 2015

12,346 1.3

Oct 2015

12,353 1.2

Nov 2015

12,346 1.5

Dec 2015

12,359 1.3

Jan 2016

12,387 1.5

Feb 2016

12,375 1.4

Mar 2016

12,355 1.2

Apr 2016

12,356 1.5

May 2016

12,335 1.1

Jun 2016

12,347 1.3

Jul 2016

12,359 1.6

Aug 2016

12,342 1.4

Sep 2016

12,330 1.5

Oct 2016

12,325 1.8

Nov 2016

12,325 1.7

Dec 2016

12,343 1.7

Jan 2017

12,355 1.7

Feb 2017

12,377 2.5

Mar 2017

12,388 1.6

Apr 2017

12,397 1.5

May 2017

12,397 2.0

Jun 2017

12,418 2.1

 In the construction industry, layoffs and discharges are much more prevalent than in other industries because, typically, projects are completed and employees move to other jobs. By contrast, quits are much lower in construction than in other industries. The Q/LD ratio for construction has been below 1.0 most of the time since 2000. (See chart 4.) The ratio has moved with the business cycle, increasing during expansions and decreasing during contractions. The movement of the ratio has been similar to that of employment across the entire period.  

View Chart Data

Chart 4. Total construction employment (in thousands) and quits-to-layoffs-and-discharges (Q/LD) ratio, December 2000–June 2017, seasonally adjusted
Month and year

Employment

(thousands)

Q/LD ratio

Dec 2000

6,792 0.4

Jan 2001

6,824 0.6

Feb 2001

6,841 0.7

Mar 2001

6,862 0.8

Apr 2001

6,844 1.0

May 2001

6,849 0.6

Jun 2001

6,840 0.6

Jul 2001

6,845 0.8

Aug 2001

6,827 0.6

Sep 2001

6,813 0.6

Oct 2001

6,804 0.5

Nov 2001

6,784 0.5

Dec 2001

6,785 0.5

Jan 2002

6,775 0.7

Feb 2002

6,766 0.6

Mar 2002

6,755 0.6

Apr 2002

6,710 0.6

May 2002

6,684 0.6

Jun 2002

6,701 0.5

Jul 2002

6,688 0.6

Aug 2002

6,701 0.7

Sep 2002

6,702 0.7

Oct 2002

6,689 0.5

Nov 2002

6,713 0.4

Dec 2002

6,700 0.6

Jan 2003

6,704 0.5

Feb 2003

6,667 0.6

Mar 2003

6,654 0.5

Apr 2003

6,689 0.3

May 2003

6,706 0.6

Jun 2003

6,723 0.7

Jul 2003

6,735 0.5

Aug 2003

6,760 0.5

Sep 2003

6,783 0.5

Oct 2003

6,784 0.6

Nov 2003

6,796 0.6

Dec 2003

6,827 0.8

Jan 2004

6,848 0.6

Feb 2004

6,838 0.6

Mar 2004

6,887 0.6

Apr 2004

6,901 0.7

May 2004

6,948 0.7

Jun 2004

6,962 0.8

Jul 2004

6,977 0.5

Aug 2004

7,003 0.7

Sep 2004

7,029 0.7

Oct 2004

7,077 0.7

Nov 2004

7,091 0.9

Dec 2004

7,117 0.6

Jan 2005

7,095 0.7

Feb 2005

7,153 0.7

Mar 2005

7,181 1.1

Apr 2005

7,266 0.7

May 2005

7,294 0.8

Jun 2005

7,333 0.7

Jul 2005

7,353 0.9

Aug 2005

7,394 0.8

Sep 2005

7,415 1.0

Oct 2005

7,460 1.1

Nov 2005

7,524 1.0

Dec 2005

7,533 1.1

Jan 2006

7,601 1.0

Feb 2006

7,664 1.0

Mar 2006

7,689 0.9

Apr 2006

7,726 1.2

May 2006

7,713 0.9

Jun 2006

7,699 1.2

Jul 2006

7,712 0.8

Aug 2006

7,720 0.8

Sep 2006

7,718 0.8

Oct 2006

7,682 0.7

Nov 2006

7,666 0.6

Dec 2006

7,685 0.7

Jan 2007

7,725 0.7

Feb 2007

7,626 0.6

Mar 2007

7,706 0.8

Apr 2007

7,686 0.7

May 2007

7,673 0.7

Jun 2007

7,687 0.5

Jul 2007

7,660 1.0

Aug 2007

7,610 0.7

Sep 2007

7,577 0.6

Oct 2007

7,565 0.7

Nov 2007

7,523 0.7

Dec 2007

7,490 0.7

Jan 2008

7,476 0.6

Feb 2008

7,453 0.7

Mar 2008

7,406 0.4

Apr 2008

7,327 0.7

May 2008

7,274 0.5

Jun 2008

7,213 0.5

Jul 2008

7,160 0.6

Aug 2008

7,114 0.6

Sep 2008

7,044 0.4

Oct 2008

6,967 0.3

Nov 2008

6,813 0.3

Dec 2008

6,701 0.3

Jan 2009

6,567 0.2

Feb 2009

6,446 0.3

Mar 2009

6,291 0.2

Apr 2009

6,154 0.2

May 2009

6,100 0.2

Jun 2009

6,010 0.3

Jul 2009

5,932 0.2

Aug 2009

5,855 0.2

Sep 2009

5,787 0.2

Oct 2009

5,716 0.2

Nov 2009

5,696 0.4

Dec 2009

5,654 0.3

Jan 2010

5,580 0.3

Feb 2010

5,500 0.3

Mar 2010

5,537 0.3

Apr 2010

5,553 0.2

May 2010

5,520 0.2

Jun 2010

5,516 0.3

Jul 2010

5,508 0.3

Aug 2010

5,524 0.4

Sep 2010

5,501 0.3

Oct 2010

5,508 0.3

Nov 2010

5,506 0.2

Dec 2010

5,467 0.3

Jan 2011

5,427 0.3

Feb 2011

5,451 0.2

Mar 2011

5,477 0.3

Apr 2011

5,485 0.4

May 2011

5,516 0.3

Jun 2011

5,528 0.3

Jul 2011

5,547 0.3

Aug 2011

5,552 0.3

Sep 2011

5,584 0.3

Oct 2011

5,588 0.4

Nov 2011

5,593 0.6

Dec 2011

5,611 0.4

Jan 2012

5,626 0.3

Feb 2012

5,629 0.3

Mar 2012

5,625 0.5

Apr 2012

5,618 0.3

May 2012

5,604 0.3

Jun 2012

5,621 0.4

Jul 2012

5,632 0.3

Aug 2012

5,648 0.3

Sep 2012

5,661 0.3

Oct 2012

5,674 0.6

Nov 2012

5,684 0.3

Dec 2012

5,724 0.5

Jan 2013

5,741 0.7

Feb 2013

5,793 0.6

Mar 2013

5,806 0.4

Apr 2013

5,798 0.5

May 2013

5,828 0.5

Jun 2013

5,856 0.5

Jul 2013

5,859 0.5

Aug 2013

5,878 0.5

Sep 2013

5,908 0.5

Oct 2013

5,928 0.5

Nov 2013

5,957 0.4

Dec 2013

5,933 0.5

Jan 2014

5,989 0.6

Feb 2014

6,010 0.7

Mar 2014

6,047 0.6

Apr 2014

6,086 0.9

May 2014

6,112 0.8

Jun 2014

6,132 0.8

Jul 2014

6,174 0.5

Aug 2014

6,204 0.8

Sep 2014

6,231 0.8

Oct 2014

6,251 0.7

Nov 2014

6,269 0.4

Dec 2014

6,292 0.7

Jan 2015

6,336 0.6

Feb 2015

6,362 0.7

Mar 2015

6,351 0.6

Apr 2015

6,395 0.8

May 2015

6,432 0.8

Jun 2015

6,446 0.5

Jul 2015

6,467 0.7

Aug 2015

6,482 0.5

Sep 2015

6,490 0.6

Oct 2015

6,534 0.5

Nov 2015

6,589 0.7

Dec 2015

6,628 1.1

Jan 2016

6,639 0.4

Feb 2016

6,662 0.4

Mar 2016

6,705 0.9

Apr 2016

6,704 0.5

May 2016

6,690 0.6

Jun 2016

6,690 0.6

Jul 2016

6,708 0.8

Aug 2016

6,704 0.9

Sep 2016

6,727 0.8

Oct 2016

6,743 0.7

Nov 2016

6,771 1.0

Dec 2016

6,783 0.6

Jan 2017

6,817 0.9

Feb 2017

6,871 1.0

Mar 2017

6,871 0.8

Apr 2017

6,871 0.8

May 2017

6,878 0.8

Jun 2017

6,893 0.7

 As with construction, the Q/LD ratio for professional and business services has moved with the business cycle and trended in synchrony with employment since 2000. However, in professional and business services the ratio fluctuated not far above and below the 1.0 mark for most of the time until about 2015, after which quits accelerated, moving the ratio to a high of 2.0. (See chart 5.) 

View Chart Data

Chart 5. Total professional and business services employment (in thousands) and quits-to-layoffs-and-discharges (Q/LD) ratio, December 2000–June 2017, seasonally adjusted
Month and year

Employment

(thousands)

Q/LD ratio

Dec 2000

16,837 1.1

Jan 2001

16,828 1.4

Feb 2001

16,793 1.2

Mar 2001

16,756 1.2

Apr 2001

16,638 1.7

May 2001

16,596 1.3

Jun 2001

16,525 1.6

Jul 2001

16,473 1.5

Aug 2001

16,406 1.2

Sep 2001

16,327 1.0

Oct 2001

16,225 1.3

Nov 2001

16,114 1.1

Dec 2001

16,079 1.2

Jan 2002

16,021 1.5

Feb 2002

15,981 1.3

Mar 2002

16,003 1.3

Apr 2002

16,020 1.4

May 2002

16,012 1.6

Jun 2002

16,007 1.3

Jul 2002

15,942 1.2

Aug 2002

15,962 1.4

Sep 2002

15,953 1.3

Oct 2002

15,973 1.3

Nov 2002

15,948 1.2

Dec 2002

15,877 1.1

Jan 2003

15,924 1.2

Feb 2003

15,943 1.0

Mar 2003

15,880 1.3

Apr 2003

15,879 1.0

May 2003

15,920 0.9

Jun 2003

15,939 0.9

Jul 2003

15,999 1.0

Aug 2003

15,984 0.9

Sep 2003

16,040 1.1

Oct 2003

16,079 1.0

Nov 2003

16,096 1.1

Dec 2003

16,137 1.1

Jan 2004

16,146 0.7

Feb 2004

16,151 1.1

Mar 2004

16,195 1.1

Apr 2004

16,292 0.8

May 2004

16,379 0.8

Jun 2004

16,393 1.1

Jul 2004

16,427 1.2

Aug 2004

16,444 1.2

Sep 2004

16,475 1.1

Oct 2004

16,587 1.5

Nov 2004

16,573 1.1

Dec 2004

16,594 1.1

Jan 2005

16,638 1.1

Feb 2005

16,706 1.1

Mar 2005

16,748 1.1

Apr 2005

16,804 1.3

May 2005

16,828 1.5

Jun 2005

16,914 0.9

Jul 2005

16,995 0.8

Aug 2005

17,048 1.0

Sep 2005

17,126 1.3

Oct 2005

17,143 1.2

Nov 2005

17,216 1.2

Dec 2005

17,256 1.2

Jan 2006

17,297 1.3

Feb 2006

17,368 1.3

Mar 2006

17,440 1.6

Apr 2006

17,465 1.5

May 2006

17,512 1.1

Jun 2006

17,581 1.5

Jul 2006

17,631 1.1

Aug 2006

17,683 1.5

Sep 2006

17,681 1.4

Oct 2006

17,685 1.2

Nov 2006

17,747 1.4

Dec 2006

17,771 1.5

Jan 2007

17,834 1.5

Feb 2007

17,877 1.4

Mar 2007

17,886 1.2

Apr 2007

17,910 1.2

May 2007

17,938 1.4

Jun 2007

17,947 1.3

Jul 2007

17,956 1.4

Aug 2007

17,970 1.3

Sep 2007

17,974 1.1

Oct 2007

18,009 1.1

Nov 2007

18,012 1.1

Dec 2007

18,051 1.1

Jan 2008

18,037 1.1

Feb 2008

17,989 1.3

Mar 2008

17,947 1.0

Apr 2008

17,942 1.4

May 2008

17,877 1.5

Jun 2008

17,847 1.1

Jul 2008

17,772 1.2

Aug 2008

17,715 0.8

Sep 2008

17,654 1.0

Oct 2008

17,540 1.0

Nov 2008

17,346 0.7

Dec 2008

17,220 0.8

Jan 2009

17,065 0.7

Feb 2009

16,898 0.6

Mar 2009

16,758 0.6

Apr 2009

16,610 0.6

May 2009

16,543 0.8

Jun 2009

16,436 0.7

Jul 2009

16,413 0.6

Aug 2009

16,386 0.6

Sep 2009

16,411 0.7

Oct 2009

16,417 0.7

Nov 2009

16,476 0.7

Dec 2009

16,475 0.7

Jan 2010

16,520 0.7

Feb 2010

16,548 0.8

Mar 2010

16,539 0.8

Apr 2010

16,618 1.1

May 2010

16,642 0.8

Jun 2010

16,705 1.1

Jul 2010

16,719 0.8

Aug 2010

16,763 1.2

Sep 2010

16,790 1.0

Oct 2010

16,854 1.2

Nov 2010

16,952 0.9

Dec 2010

17,020 0.9

Jan 2011

17,056 1.0

Feb 2011

17,100 1.1

Mar 2011

17,184 1.0

Apr 2011

17,244 0.9

May 2011

17,283 0.9

Jun 2011

17,294 0.9

Jul 2011

17,320 1.0

Aug 2011

17,380 1.0

Sep 2011

17,450 1.0

Oct 2011

17,500 0.8

Nov 2011

17,541 0.9

Dec 2011

17,596 0.8

Jan 2012

17,697 1.1

Feb 2012

17,746 0.8

Mar 2012

17,787 1.0

Apr 2012

17,831 0.9

May 2012

17,863 0.9

Jun 2012

17,918 0.8

Jul 2012

17,964 0.8

Aug 2012

17,997 0.8

Sep 2012

18,026 0.8

Oct 2012

18,083 0.7

Nov 2012

18,115 0.8

Dec 2012

18,158 1.2

Jan 2013

18,214 0.8

Feb 2013

18,291 1.0

Mar 2013

18,362 0.9

Apr 2013

18,423 1.0

May 2013

18,487 1.1

Jun 2013

18,517 1.2

Jul 2013

18,571 1.4

Aug 2013

18,605 0.9

Sep 2013

18,636 1.2

Oct 2013

18,672 1.4

Nov 2013

18,717 1.4

Dec 2013

18,712 1.3

Jan 2014

18,772 1.2

Feb 2014

18,841 1.0

Mar 2014

18,884 1.3

Apr 2014

18,946 1.1

May 2014

18,986 1.1

Jun 2014

19,047 0.9

Jul 2014

19,090 1.0

Aug 2014

19,145 0.9

Sep 2014

19,189 1.3

Oct 2014

19,216 1.1

Nov 2014

19,272 1.1

Dec 2014

19,344 1.0

Jan 2015

19,371 1.4

Feb 2015

19,424 1.2

Mar 2015

19,447 1.0

Apr 2015

19,502 1.2

May 2015

19,576 1.2

Jun 2015

19,634 1.2

Jul 2015

19,672 1.1

Aug 2015

19,703 1.6

Sep 2015

19,705 1.0

Oct 2015

19,785 1.3

Nov 2015

19,826 1.3

Dec 2015

19,882 1.5

Jan 2016

19,877 1.3

Feb 2016

19,902 1.4

Mar 2016

19,928 1.3

Apr 2016

19,994 1.4

May 2016

20,022 1.5

Jun 2016

20,081 1.6

Jul 2016

20,165 1.5

Aug 2016

20,196 1.6

Sep 2016

20,279 1.8

Oct 2016

20,334 1.6

Nov 2016

20,380 1.7

Dec 2016

20,416 1.7

Jan 2017

20,475 1.6

Feb 2017

20,510 1.6

Mar 2017

20,568 1.9

Apr 2017

20,614 2.0

May 2017

20,664 1.4

Jun 2017

20,708 1.3

 Ratios by industry

Chart 6 shows the minimum and maximum values of the Q/LD ratio by industry since the start of the JOLTS series in December 2000. As mentioned earlier, the accommodation and food services industry and the health care and social assistance industry have had more people quitting than being laid off, creating a ratio that is always greater than 1.0. The industry with the lowest minimum ratio, 0.1, is the federal government, and the industry with the highest maximum ratio, 13.0, is real estate and rental and leasing. With the exception of three industries—construction; durable goods manufacturing; and arts, entertainment, and recreation—the maximum ratio exceeds 1.0 by much more than the minimum ratio falls below 1.0. These ranges shown indicate that quits increase during strong economic times by more than layoffs and discharges increase during weak economic times. 

View Chart Data

Chart 6. Range of Q/LD ratios, selected industries, December 2000–June 2017, seasonally adjusted
Industry High Low

Mining

3.8 0.2

Construction

1.2 0.2

Durable manufacturing

2.3 0.2

Nondurable manufacturing

2.9 0.4

Wholesale

3.4 0.4

Retail

4.4 0.7

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

3.9 0.5

Information

7.8 0.5

Finance and insurance

4.6 0.4

Real estate

13.0 0.3

Professional and business services

2.0 0.6

Education

6.4 0.4

Health

3.9 1.2

Arts and entertainment

2.0 0.2

Accommodation and food services

4.9 1.4

Other

4.0 0.3

Government

2.4 0.4

Federal

3.0 0.1

State and local education

2.9 0.6

State and local noneducation

2.7 0.6

 Summary: What the Q/LD ratio tells us

The ratio of quits to layoffs and discharges, a measure that can be derived from the JOLTS data, is an important tool for analyzing the business cycle and the differences among industries.

Quits move in a direction opposite that of layoffs and discharges, and the Q/LD ratio clearly reflects business cycle trends and turning points. The ratio rose during expansions and fell during contractions. The ratio stayed above 1.0 for most industries captured by the JOLTS series, illustrating that, during all but the most severe economic times, American workers are more likely to leave their job than lose their job.

The Q/LD ratio also shows that industries have different patterns of quits and layoffs and discharges. The health care and social assistance industry and the accommodation and food services industry are the only two industries for which quits always outnumber layoffs and discharges, producing a Q/LD ratio greater than 1.0, even during the most severe economic times. In other industries, such as construction, layoffs and discharges are more prevalent than quits, producing a ratio less than 1.0 in most months over the entire JOLTS series (2000–17). In still other industries, quits and layoffs and discharges rise and fall, creating a ratio that moves above and below 1.0 with the business cycle.

This Beyond the Numbers article was prepared by Kimberly Riley, economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Email: riley.kimberly@bls.gov. Telephone: (202) 691-6497. BLS economists Robert Lazaneo and Jonathan Krause also contributed to the article.

Information in this article will be made available upon request to individuals with sensory impairments. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200. Federal Relay Service: 1-800-877-8339. This article is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.

Notes

1 JOLTS defines quits as separations in which employees leave a job voluntarily but do not retire from the labor force or transfer to another job.

2 JOLTS defines layoffs and discharges as involuntary separations initiated by employers.

3 U.S. business cycle expansions and contractions (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research), http://www.nber.org/cycles/.

4 The National Bureau of Economic Research defines the 2001 recession as lasting from March 2001 to November 2001. Data on total nonfarm employment are available from the BLS Current Employment Statistics program. (See Current Employment Statistics – CES (National) (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), https://www.bls.gov/ces/.)

5 The National Bureau of Economic Research defines the most recent recession, also called the Great Recession, as lasting from December 2007 to June 2009.

6 The term “industry” can refer to a supersector, sector, or subsector, depending on the context. In analyzing “industries,” the JOLTS and CES programs follow the North American Industry Classification System.

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Publish Date: Monday, March 26, 2018

Suggested citation:

Kimberly Riley,   “Measuring employer and employee confidence in the economy: the quits-to-layoffs-and-discharges ratio,” Beyond the Numbers, vol. 7, no. 3 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mar 2018), https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-7/measuring-employer-and-employee-confidence-in-the-economy.htm (visited October 22, 2021).

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