U.S. job openings increase in December; quits decline

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People line up outside a newly reopened career center for in-person appointments in Louisville, U.S., April 15, 2021. REUTERS/Amira Karaoud

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WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - U.S. job openings increased to near record highs in December, suggesting a deceleration in employment growth at the end of last year was largely the result of worker shortages.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, rose 150,000 to 10.9 million on the last day of December, not too far from an all-time high of 11.098 million reached in July, the Labor Department said on Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 10.3 million vacancies.

The nearly broad rise was led by accommodation and food services, which reported an additional 133,000 job openings. There were also notable increases in vacancies in information, nondurable goods manufacturing as well as state and local government education.

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But job openings decreased in finance and insurance, and wholesale trade.

The job openings rate was unchanged at 6.8%. Hiring fell 333,000 to 6.3 million. The decline was most pronounced in professional and business services, where hiring fell by 159,000 jobs. The hiring rate was little changed at 4.2%.

The government reported last month that nonfarm payrolls increased by 199,000 jobs in December, the fewest in a year.

The JOLTS report also showed the number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs decreased by 161,000 to a still-high 4.3 million in December. Fewer workers quit in healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services industries as well as construction.

But there were more resignations in the nondurable goods manufacturing industry. The quits rate was little changed at 2.9%. The number of quits decreased in the South.

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Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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