WASHINGTON - U.S. businesses sharply cut the number of open jobs 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 that exceeds the number of those who are unemployed, the Labor Department said Tuesday.
But the total 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 the their lowest level in two years.
Job advertisements reflect companies' demand for new workers, so the decline suggests businesses are somewhat less interested in hiring. 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 in December, a solid increase.
Over the past two months, openings have fallen across a broad range of industries, with steep drops in manufacturing, construction, financial services, and retail.