January 9, 2018 2:15 PM, EST

Job Openings Declined in November to a Six-Month Low

A sign in the parking lot of a Walmart announcing that the store is hiring in Oklahoma City. AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki.

U.S. job openings unexpectedly fell in November to a six-month low, though the level is still consistent with an improving labor market, Labor Department data showed Jan. 9.

Highlights of Job Openings for November

• Number of positions waiting to be filled dropped by 46,000 to 5.88 million (estimated 6.03 million) from a downwardly revised 5.93 million in Oct. according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.

• Layoffs were little changed at 1.69 million.

• 3.17 million Americans quit their jobs, down from 3.19 million in Oct.; quits rate held at 2.2%.

Key Takeaways

Even with the decline in November, the number of openings remains elevated, showing a high level of untapped demand for labor, as employers struggle to find skilled and experienced workers.

There were a record 6.18 million openings in September. Last week’s December jobs report pointed to an economy at full employment, with the jobless rate holding at the lowest level since 2000.

Industries including manufacturing, business services and transportation and warehousing had fewer openings than in October, while available positions increased in construction and retail, the JOLTS report showed.

A big question for 2018 is whether employers will get more aggressive with pay increases to lure talent and fill positions. According to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, anecdotal reports suggest that in lieu of bigger pay packages, some companies are offering non-wage benefits and office perks.

Other Details

•There were 1.1 unemployed people vying for every opening in November, compared with 1.9 people when the recession began at the end of 2007.

• In the 12 months through November, the economy created a net 2.1 million jobs, representing 64.6 million hires and 62.4 million separations.

• Number of hires fell to 5.49 million in November from 5.59 million.

• Although it lags the Labor Department’s other jobs data by a month, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly payrolls figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and the pace of hiring.