The number of workers who quit their jobs in September rose to record high for the third month in a row, making it harder for companies to maintain staff levels during the worst labor shortage in decades.

Some 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September, the government said Friday. By contrast, just half as many had quit during the early stages of the pandemic.

Put another way, 3% of the labor force quit in that month. That’s also the highest level since the government began keeping track in 2000.

Before the pandemic the so-called quit rate was fairly steady at about 2.3%.

People usually quit when the economy is doing well or they think they can find a better job. They tend to stay put when the economy is bad.

The vast majority of people quitting are finding other jobs. Companies hired 6.5 million people in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

Some 6.2 million left their job in September, either by quitting, retiring or getting laid off.

With some 10.4 million open jobs, businesses are desperate to hire people in an effort to keep up with the crush of demand.

Some companies have even had to scale back production or hours because they cannot obtain enough labor. Millions of people who had jobs before the pandemic still haven’t returned to work.

Broad shortages or labor and supplies are holding back the U.S. recovery and threatening a broader slowdown unless they relent.

In recent trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average

and the S&P 500

rose slightly. Stocks are near record highs.

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