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Economic Report: Jolts data show continued tight U.S. labor market in December

The numbers: Job openings rose by 150,000 to 10.9 million on the last day of December, the U.S. Labor Department said Tuesday.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 10.5 million vacancies.

The number of Americans quitting their jobs fell by 161,000 to 4.3 million in December from a record in November.

The quits rate inched down to 2.9% from 3% in November.

Key details: Hiring fell by 333,000 jobs to 6.3 million in December. The hiring rate fell to 4.2% in December from 4.4% in the last four months.

The JOLTS report showed layoffs fell by 140,000 to 1.2 million. The layoffs rate fell to 0.8% in December, a new record low, after a 0.9% reading over the past four months. 

Big picture: “This is, by so many measures, a historically tight labor market,” said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell last week.

“I think there’s quit a bit of room to raise interest rates without hurting the labor market,” Powell said.

Analysts had expected some impact on the data from the spread of the omicron variant but it is hard to see at first blush.

Market reaction: U.S. stocks DJIA, -0.05% SPX, -0.17% were lower on Tuesday after the ISM reported that its manufacturing index fell to its slowest pace in 14 months in January.

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