Job openings rose in December amid worker shortages

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers stepped up their search for workers in December despite the looming impact of the omicron wave of coronavirus infections.

The number of posted jobs rose 1.4% to 10.9 million on the last day of December, compared with the previous month, the Labor Department said today. That is far higher than pre-pandemic levels, though below the record number of openings posted last summer.

The data suggests companies were desperate to hire workers last month yet had trouble finding enough people to fill their open jobs. A measure of hiring fell in December, according to today’s report. There were approximately 1.6 available jobs for every person actively seeking work that month.

Job gains likely also took a hit in January, economists expect, as millions of Americans were forced to stay home because they were sick with COVID or had to take care of those who were.

About 4.3 million people quit their jobs in December, the government’s Tuesday report said, down from a record of 4.5 million in November. Still, far more Americans are leaving their jobs than before the pandemic, a positive sign because most people who quit do so for a better-paying job.