St. Louis Fed economist David Wiczer recently assessed the labor landscape by comparing rates of workers quitting their jobs with rates of workers being let go. This graph takes a simpler view and shows the rates of workers quitting in the public and private sectors. The private-sector rate is obviously higher; in July 2005, for example, the private-sector rate was 460 percent of the public-sector rate.
Not surprisingly, though, the rates track each other pretty closely: Any worker would be more inclined to quit a job when economic prospects are good and less inclined when they’re not so good. But the data behind this graph show that the gap between the rates has narrowed a bit since the recent recession. From December 2000 to June 2009, the private-sector rate was on average about 350 percent of the public-sector rate; since then, the gap has fallen to about 320 percent. The graph does show a recent rise in the private-sector quit rate, however, so the gap may be increasing.
How this graph was created: Select the first series, “Quits: Total Private,” and then add the second series, “Quits: Government.” Both series shown here are seasonally adjusted monthly rates. You can also search for specific industries (e.g., construction or manufacturing) and other measures (e.g., layoffs and discharges).
Suggested by George Fortier.