U.S. open jobs fall sharply for 2nd straight month

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U.S. open jobs fall sharply for 2nd straight month

WASHINGTON — U.S. businesses sharply cut the number of jobs they advertised in December for the second straight month, an unusual sign of weakness in an otherwi

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WASHINGTON — U.S. businesses sharply cut the number of jobs they advertised in December for the second straight month, an unusual sign of weakness in an otherwise healthy job market.

The number of available positions dropped 5.4% to 6.4 million, a historically solid number, the Labor Department said Tuesday. There are still more open jobs than there are unemployed people, an unusual situation that has persisted for nearly two years. Before that, the ranks of those out of work exceeded the number of open jobs.

Still, the total of available jobs has fallen by more than 1 million in the past year, the biggest annual drop since the Great Recession. Most of that decline has occurred in just the past two months. Job openings are now at their lowest level in two years. The decline comes after job openings had hit the highest level on records dating back to December 2000.

Nearly all other measures of the labor market remain healthy: The unemployment rate is 3.6%, nearly a half-century low, and employers added 225,000 jobs last month, a solid increase.

“The trend in job growth has remained strong through January … but the recent decline in job openings signals that job growth could slow at some point,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan Chase.

Over the past two months, openings have fallen across all large industries covered by Tuesday’s report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS. Some of the biggest declines were in construction, manufacturing, financial services, and retail.