Listen To The Story

Here's one of those economic reports that make you wanna stop reading economic reports. Here we are deep in what's been called a jobless recovery, and the Labor Department says that in the past three months, more people have quit their jobs than been laid off. Nobody ever said labor economics was an easy thing to figure out, but that one does seem to fly in the face of commonsense.

By Stacey Vanek-Smith

Eight million people lost their jobs in 2008 and 2009. And almost nobody was quitting. Until now.

"It means that workers feel confident in the economy," said Gary Chaison, who studies labor issues at Clark University. "I think that people are less frightened, I think that people now feel as if the jobs they wanted are starting to open up."

Twenty-seven-year-old Katie Charland just quit her job. She graduated from a master's program last year, hoping to work in the nonprofit sector.

"It was pretty rough," Charland said. "I remember that whole summer, I looked for jobs endlessly, in every field I could think of and I got pretty creative."

Creative enough that she took a job in publishing. She kept looking though, and a few weeks ago, she landed the job she wanted.

"I think I'm on the front lines of the economy getting better and people starting to take a positive outlook," she said.

Harley Shaiken, a labor economist, said "in a labor market that has had more than its share of dark clouds, it's a little bit of sunshine."

Shaiken says more people quitting does show increased confidence in the economy, but whether there's reason to be confident is unclear.

"There is some cause for optimism when one looks at the overall economy, but the labor market remains pretty grim," he said.

Shaiken points out that for every open job, there are five people looking. And job growth has consistently come in below expectations.

Clark University's Gary Chaison points out quitting could also mean jobs have gotten harder, as employers trim staff and load more work onto the survivors.

Follow Stacey Vanek Smith at @svaneksmith