U.S. job openings rose in December to 2.5 million from 2.4 million a month earlier, and the number of unemployed workers fell 73,000 to 15.3 million, according to the Labor Department in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.
The report supports the view that that labor market is on the brink of recovery. While the economy resumed growth in the second half of last year, the labor market has lagged.
Government data last week showed employers only cut 20,000 jobs in January after reducing payrolls by 150,000 in December. At the same time, factory payrolls increased for the first time in three years, while the total average workweek in January was the highest in a year.
The Labor Department report also showed hiring was little changed at 4.1 million in December. Total separations - quits, layoff and discharges -- fell 36,000 to 4.2 million in December. With troubled labor market conditions, workers are reluctant to change jobs. The quits rate, a measure of workers' willingness or ability to change jobs, decreased in the business sector and was unchanged for government in December, the report showed.