December JOLTS Report: The Best Job Seeker’s Market Ever Was Growing Ever More Favorable for Workers Before Omicron

In December, job openings rose from 10.78 million to 10.93 million, almost matching their all-time record high, while hires fell from 6.60 million to 6.26 million. The diverging numbers highlight the intensifying hiring challenges facing U.S. companies amid a record-low number of unemployed job seekers per opening (just 0.58, down sharply from the pre-Covid average 2.3). 

Job openings nationwide are now 55.8% higher than before the pandemic. They hit all-time record highs both among small businesses with less than 10 employees (1.5 million openings), and among enterprises with more than 5,000 employees (235,000). 

Layoffs and discharges hit their lowest levels on record (0.8%)—a sign that workers now have more job security than ever before. Given the trouble businesses are having in finding and attracting new hires, employers are hanging onto the workers they’ve got. That’s good news for workers, because when employers can’t replace low-performing workers, they have to find other means to increase productivity, such as investments in training, technology, and improved management practices.   

Workers continue to leave their jobs in extremely high numbers, especially in low-wage industries where most work must be performed onsite, such as leisure and hospitality (5.8%) and retail (4.9%). A record-high number of workers quit in trade, transportation & utilities in December. 

An additional source of strain on employers is relatively high retirements (known as “other separations” in the data), particularly in the West where more workers retired in one month than ever before. 1.5 million more workers have retired than would have been expected before the pandemic. Mid-size businesses with 50-249 employees had the highest quits rate on record at 3.8% (1.5 million). They account for 36% of all quits in the private sector, an outsized share.

Top 5 Industries with Largest Increases in Job Openings Since Pre-Covid February, 2020

  • +149.67% Nondurable goods manufacturing
  • +119.23% Other services
  • +91.67% Mining and logging
  • +90.08% Durable goods manufacturing
  • +89.96% Accommodation and food services

Top 5 Industries with the Largest 1-Month Increases in Job Openings

  • +22.60% Information
  • +15.00% Educational services
  • +12.20% Mining and logging
  • +9.50% Accommodation and food services
  • +9.37% State and local government education

Written by

Julia Pollak is Chief Economist at ZipRecruiter. She leads ZipRecruiter's economic research team, which provides insights and analysis on current labor market trends and the future of work.

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