(Bloomberg) — U.S. job openings rose unexpectedly in December while quits declined slightly, suggesting that labor demand held steady in the month despite a surge in Covid-19 infections and pandemic-related business disruptions.
The number of available positions rose to 10.9 million from an upwardly revised 10.8 million in November, the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed Tuesday. The figure exceeded all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists.
The quits rate was little changed at 2.9% from a record 3% in the prior month, pointing to a high degree of churn in the labor market. The level of quits edged down from an all-time high in November.
The data show that vacancies remained elevated in December despite temporary business closures at the end of the month due to the spreading omicron variant. While job openings could decline in January, economists expect the impact to be short-lived with employers looking to increase headcount as consumer demand strengthens in the coming months.
There were 1.7 jobs for every unemployed worker in December.
The JOLTS report comes ahead of Friday’s monthly employment report from the Labor Department, which is currently forecast to show the U.S. added 150,000 jobs in January, the weakest print since December 2020.
Job openings rose in accommodation and food services, information and state and local government education in December, the JOLTS report showed. Vacancies fell in finance and insurance and in wholesale trade.
Total hires decreased in December to 6.3 million, driven by professional and business services. The hires rate fell slightly to 4.2%, the first decline in four months. Layoffs and discharges were little changed at 1.2 million.
A separate report Tuesday from the Institute for Supply Management showed that the group’s employment index rose in January to a 10-month high, suggesting factories were having greater success beefing up payrolls.
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U.S. Job Openings Rose Unexpectedly in December
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