(CN) – American employers advertised 6.4 million open jobs in December, a continued decline that marks the lowest level in two years.
There were 364,000 more job openings the month before, and the current number of job postings is the lowest since December 2017. December’s downturn in open jobs followed a decrease of more than 550,000 in November.
Still, job openings have outpaced the number of unemployed Americans for nearly two years, a trend that began in March 2018. With 5.9 million unemployed Americans, there are about 500,000 more available positions than jobless people.
Tara Sinclair, a senior fellow at Indeed Hiring Lab, expressed some concern for the drop in job postings for the second straight month.
“While the ratio of unemployed workers to job vacancies is something to watch, there are still lots of job openings out there. Now is still a good time to look for a new job, but these opportunities might not last forever,” she wrote Tuesday.
There were 5.9 million new hires in December, about the same as the month before. The number of people quitting their jobs also held steady at 3.5 million, according to a Labor Department report released Tuesday.
While worker departures can be a headache for employers, economists see them as a positive sign because most people who quit do so for higher-paying positions.
Sinclair noted that the quits rate has hovered around 2.3% since peaking in mid-2018 after climbing for several years.
“A higher quits rate is typically a signal of worker optimism. At 2.3%, this is a good number but not a great one, especially as it remains stagnant,” she said.
In the private sector, the biggest losses were in trade, transportation and utilities, where openings fell by 123,000, and in education and health services, which had 94,000 fewer postings. The financial activities sector, which includes real estate, posted 50,000 fewer open jobs in December, while there were 21,000 fewer openings in manufacturing.
Government job postings dropped by 32,000 in December, including a decrease of 24,000 at the federal level. Meanwhile, there were 22,000 more open jobs in construction.
The record high of 7.63 million job openings was set in November 2018.