Job Openings Little Changed in December as Hiring Rises Slightly

Job openings were little changed at still-elevated levels in December, signaling steady progress in U.S. employment, a Labor Department report showed Tuesday.

Key Points

  • Number of positions waiting to be filled fell by 4,000 to 5.501 million (forecast was 5.58 million), from 5.505 million in November (revised from 5.52 million), according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS
  • Hiring increased to 5.25 million from 5.21 million; the hiring rate held at 3.6 percent
  • Some 2.98 million Americans quit their jobs, down from 3.08 million in the previous month; the quits rate fell to 2 percent from 2.1 percent
  • Layoffs rose to 1.64 million, the highest since August, from 1.62 million

Big Picture

The report reflects a steady labor market, in line with the jump in hiring shown in January’s payroll figures last week. While monthly job gains are expected to cool as the economy nears full employment, greater openings mean employers may need to boost pay further to attract or retain staff.

Economists’ Takeaways

“We’re very close to full employment,” Gregory Daco, head of U.S. macroeconomics at Oxford Economics in New York, said before the report. “Hirings remain quite high and the overall number of job seekers per open position continues to be quite low, if not trend a little bit lower.”

Other Details

  • There were 1.4 unemployed people vying for every opening in December, compared with 1.9 people when the recession began at the end of 2007
  • Manufacturing, retail, finance and health care and social assistance were among industries posting greater openings
  • Openings declined in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, construction and state and local government
  • In the 12 months through December, the economy created a net 2.4 million jobs, representing 62.5 million hires and 60.1 million separations
  • Although it lags the Labor Department’s other jobs data by a month, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly payrolls figures by providing statistics including resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring
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