Some economists took the big decline as a sign that the labor market may be slowing after strong job growth over the past few years has pushed the unemployment rate down to the lowest level in a half-century.
“The labor market may be starting to lose its shine as companies have scaled back their hiring in the face of continued economic uncertainty in this longest economic expansion in history,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG in New York.
The report on job openings was for November. The government’s more current unemployment report for December, released last week, showed that employers created 145,000 jobs last month. That was a decline from a robust increase of 256,000 jobs in November.
For all of 2019, employers added an average of 175,000 jobs per month, down from an average gain of 223,250 jobs per month in 2018. For December, the unemployment rate in December held steady at a five decade low of 3.5% where it has been for three of the past four months. That is the lowest level since 1969.
The report Friday on job openings, job hires and job separations for November showed that hires totaled 5.8 million in November, The number of separations from jobs, which includes people leaving to get better jobs, totaled 5.65 million, basically unchanged from October.