While the number of available jobs remained close to the five-year high mark, a Labor Department report said that job openings slipped to 3.99 million, down from 4.03 million in November, the first time that employers posted more than 4 million openings since March 2008.
Total hirings fell to 4.4 million from 4.5 million in November, pushing the hiring rate down to 3.2 percent from 3.3 percent in the previous month. While job openings continue to hold at pre-recession levels, the number of hirings is still below 5 million, the level considered a sign of a healthy economy.
The number of job openings decreased in healthcare and social assistance; arts, entertainment, and recreation; and state and local government. The drop in openings suggests that employers are waiting for a pickup in demand and improved economic conditions before hiring new staff, while some attribute it to the severe winter weather.
Close to 2.37 million people quit their jobs in December, down from the previous month's 2.41 million. The quit rate, which shows the willingness of workers to leave their jobs, fell to 1.7 percent from 1.8 percent in November.