U.S. employers posted fewer job openings in December and hiring slowed, the government reported Tuesday, adding to evidence that the labor market weakened that month. Still, the number of available jobs remained at a more than 5-year high.
The Labor Department said job openings fell 1 percent to 3.99 million in December from 4.03 million the previous month. The November total was the first time that available jobs had topped 4 million since early 2008
Total hiring fell by 100,000 to 4.4 million in December, the weakest in six months. While job openings are mostly back to pre-recession levels, hiring is significantly below the 5 million a month that is typical for a healthy economy.
It is becoming slightly easier to find a job, though the market remains competitive. There were 2.6 unemployed people, on average, for each available job in December - much better than the 6.7 unemployed for each job in July 2009, one month after the recession ended. However, the ratio is 2-to-1 in a healthy economy.
Job gains slowed in January for the second consecutive month, according to the department's comprehensive monthly employment report released last week, raising concerns that the economy's momentum has stalled after healthy growth at the end of 2013.