U.S. layoffs eased in December and job openings increased modestly, suggesting the decline in employment that month was largely due to companies cutting back on hiring amid uncertainty caused by a raging COVID19 pandemic.
Though the Labor Departments monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, offered cautious optimism that job growth could regain speed as coronavirus vaccines become accessible to large swaths of the population, unemployment remains pervasive.
The economy shed jobs in December for the first time in eight months following renewed outbreaks of the virus.
The decline in employment in December was more a product of reduced hiring than a pickup in layoffs, said Nick Bunker, director of research at Indeed Hiring Lab. Employers were hesitant about adding new workers. This trend is easier to reverse than the destruction of employeremployee relationships that happens when workers are laid off.
Job openings, a measure of labor demand, rose 74,000 to 6.65 million on the last day of December from 6.572 million. There were an additional 296,000 job openings in the professional and business services industry. But vacancies decreased for state and local government, excluding education.
There also were fewer unfilled jobs in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries as well as at factories producing goods that are not intended to last longer than three years, such as clothing.
The job openings rate ticked up to 4.5 from 4.4 in November….