US Job Openings Edge Up in December, Hiring Declines

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US job openings increased marginally in December while hiring declined, pointing to a labor market that was treading water amid a raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, rose to 6.65 million on the last day of December from 6.572 million in the previous month, the Labor Department said on Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report. The job openings rate ticked up to 4.5% from 4.4% in November.

Hiring dropped to 5.54 million from 5.94 million in November. The hiring rate declined to 3.9% from 4.2% in November. Layoffs decreased to 1.81 million in December from 2.056 million in the prior month. That lowered the layoffs rate to 1.3% from 1.4% in November.

The JOLTS report followed on the heels of news last Friday that the economy created only 49,000 jobs in January after shedding 227,000 jobs in December. Employment is 9.9 million jobs below its peak in February 2020.