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Yellen Eyeing Turnover as Confident Workers Quit Jobs

Bloomberg Businessweek (01/09/14) Anna-Louise Jackson; Anthony Feld

Janet Yellen, the incoming chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, is monitoring a new trend—more people are choosing to quit their jobs as their confidence about business conditions grows. Information about voluntary separations is one of six gauges Yellen says she uses to assess the strength of the labor market. At a conference last spring, she said, “a pickup in the quit rate, which also remains at a low level, would signal that workers perceive that their chances to be rehired are good— in other words, that labor demand has strengthened.”

The quit rate has been “slowly grinding higher” and likely will continue to increase this year, says Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group, an institutional equity-trading broker. However, Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., disagrees. The underlying data show that “things don’t look as good as they seem,” he says.

The number of people who quit their jobs in October is about 24% below a pre-recession peak of 3.1 million in November 2006, when the quit ratio was 58%, according to seasonally adjusted numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor.