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Job openings on the decline but still outpace available workers by more than 800,000

Key Points
  • Job openings declined to about 6.9 million in November, still about 800,000 more than there were workers.
  • The Labor Department's JOLTS report is considered a key indicator of labor market slack.
Recruiters and job seekers are seen at a job fair.
Rick Wilking | Reuters

Job openings edged lower in November but there were still 800,000 more vacancies than there were workers to fill them, according to Labor Department data released Tuesday.

The total number of vacancies declined by 243,000 during a month when nonfarm payrolls grew by just 176,000. Job openings stood just shy of 6.9 million, still nearly a million more than the year before, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey showed.

Vacancies fell by 237,000 at private companies with the balance coming from the government.

There were just more than 6 million members of the workforce counted as unemployed for the month.

The so-called JOLTS survey is closely watched by Federal Reserve officials for an indication of tightness in the labor market.

Total hires for the month fell from October by 218,000 to 5.7 million, while separations also dropped by 114,000 to 5.5 million. Federal government hires rose by 8,000 but hires dropped by 167,000 in professional and business services.

Workers also left their jobs in diminishing numbers. The quits rate, a key measure of employee confidence that they can leave their old jobs for new ones, dropped by 112,000 to just more than 3.4 million. The quits rate, however, held steady at 2.3 percent.

Transportation, warehousing and utilities saw the biggest gains in job openings with 40,000, while vacancies declined in services at 66,000 and construction at 45,000.

JOLTS numbers run a month behind the more widely followed nonfarm payrolls count. While employment growth was comparatively tepid in November, it surged by 312,000 in December, according to the report released Friday that showed the unemployment rate rising to 3.9 percent due in large part to an increase in the labor force participation rate.