Business

Job openings down in December

WASHINGTON — Employers advertised fewer jobs in December and cut back on hiring, suggesting many were cautious at the end of the year.

Job openings dropped 4.6 percent in December from November to 3.62 million, the Labor Department said Tuesday. November’s openings were revised higher.

Employers hired 4.2 million people, a 4.8 percent drop and the fewest in a year.

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One positive sign: Employers cut just 1.57 million jobs, the fewest layoffs on records dating back to 2001.

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Still, those looking for work face stiff competition. About 12.2 million people were unemployed in December. That means there were 3.4 unemployed people, on average, competing for each open job. In a healthy economy, the ratio is roughly 2 to 1.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, also known as JOLTS, calculates total hiring, layoffs, and quits. That’s different from the department’s monthly jobs report, which measures the unemployment rate and net hiring.

The JOLTS data will likely be revised significantly next month based on comprehensive tax records.