The department said there were 4 million job openings on the last business day of the month.
The hire rate dropped slightly from 3.3 percent to 3.2 percent. The separations rate rose slightly from 3.1 percent to 3.2 percent, the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
The number of job openings fell in the public sector, but was little changed in the private sector, the report said.
Total separations -- quits, layoffs and discharges and other separations -- totaled 4.4 million in December, up from 4.3 million in November.
The quits rate, slipped from a 5 1/2-year high of 1.8 percent to 1.7 percent. The index for quits measures how many workers voluntarily left their positions, which suggests there are better positions available for workers to change jobs.
For the year, there were 53.3 million hires and 51.4 separations, which means a net gain of 1.9 million employed by the end of the year.