Is The US At Full (Realistic) Employment? If So, Why Isn’t The Fed Raising Rates?

Is the US at full employment? That is, is the US at REALISTIC full employment? And if the US is at realistic full employment, why is The Federal Reserve keeping rates at 25 basis points??

Let’s start with the “quits” data. An estimated 3% of American workers quit their jobs in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week.1That’s the highest percentage since the BLS started keeping track two decades ago.

Front-line and low-wage workers are leaving at rates higher than historical norms while higher-paid office workers aren’t. College-educated workers haven’t been quitting or dropping out of the workforce at higher rates than before the pandemic, but less-educated workers have.


The quits rate in professional and business services was just 0.4 percentage points higher in September than before the pandemic in February 2020. In financial activities it was unchanged. In the information sector, made up of telecommunications, publishing, broadcasting, motion pictures, software and most internet companies, the quits rate was down 0.3 percentage points.

The biggest increases in quit rates were in sectors such as leisure and hospitality where office workers are few, working remotely seldom an option and wages low. Within manufacturing, the quits-rate increase has been much bigger in lower-paying nondurable goods (of which food manufacturing is the biggest part) than in higher-paying durable goods.

In particular, fast food restaurants are offering above minimum wage salaries to attract workers. Burger King was even offering college tuition (not to University of Chicago, but to the local community college).

Labor force participation crashed with COVID and has struggled to recover, despite the staggering monetary stimulus. If this a sign that the US is at full employment (or very difficult to entice workers to enter and stay in the labor force)?

Speaking of colleges, business schools in particular, here are the top 85 business schools in the US according to Bloomberg/Business Week. I had the honor of teaching at University of Chicago in the 1990s which is currently ranked at #4.

I saw this headline this morning: “More Americans Than Expected File for Jobless Benefits.” Odd since so many jobs are available.

I guess Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It” is the new national anthem under Biden.

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