Job Openings in U.S. Declined to Seven-Month Low in December

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Job openings in the U.S. unexpectedly declined in December to a seven-month low even as workers increasingly left positions voluntarily, Labor Department data showed Tuesday.

Highlights of Job Openings (December) 

  • Number of positions waiting to be filled fell by 167k to 5.81m (est. 5.961m) from an upwardly revised 5.98m in Nov. (prev. 5.88m): Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS
  • Private hiring increased to 5.13m from 5.12m; government hiring cooled
  • 3.26m Americans quit their jobs, most since early 2001, up from 3.16m in Nov.; quits rate ticked up to 2.2%

Key Takeaways

The labor market remains at historically strong levels despite the drop in vacancies. A pickup in the quits rate that shows Americans are more confident in finding another job. The report also showed the fewest layoffs since April.

As employers continue their hunt for skilled and experienced workers in a tight labor market, pressure on hiring managers to offer larger paychecks may keep mounting. The government’s jobs report last week showed a 2.9 percent jump in January average hourly earnings, the biggest year-over-year advance since June 2009. Employers added 200,000 workers last month.

Construction, manufacturing, business services and retail were among industries that showed fewer openings than in November, while job availability increased in leisure and hospitality and health care, the report showed. The JOLTS survey helps measure job vacancies, providing insight into retention rates and general labor market activity.

Other Details

  • There were 1.1 unemployed people vying for every opening in December, compared with 1.9 people when the recession began at the end of 2007
  • In the 12 months through December, the economy created a net 2.2 million jobs, representing 64.7 million hires and 62.6 million separations
  • Number of layoffs dropped to 1.65 million from 1.73 million
  • Although it lags the Labor Department’s other jobs data by a month, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly payrolls figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring
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