[Excerpt] The expansion that began in March 1991 is now in its 10th year. Over this period, the unemployment rate has fallen to a 30-year low, and employment growth has been robust. As labor market conditions have tightened, there has been increased interest in the number of unemployed persons who have voluntarily left their jobs. Some analysts consider this series a gauge of workers’ confidence about the job market, with an increase in the number of unemployed job leavers, or in their share of total unemployment, indicating rising confidence. The rationale is that workers would not voluntarily leave a job and enter into a job search unless they perceived that prospects for a successful search were quite good. The appropriateness of these measures, either on a month to- month or longer-term basis, as a gauge of workers’ confidence in the job market is questionable, however.
This report examines several issues associated with data on unemployed job leavers collected each month in the Current Population Survey (CPS). First and foremost, unemployed job leavers may not be a good proxy for total job leavers, the vast majority of whom may never pass through the interim stage of unemployment.