U.S. job openings declined by slightly more than expected in November, a sign that the labor market is softening in the wake of the 2020 election, the surge in coronavirus infections, and the return of restrictions on many businesses.

Job openings fell 105,000 to 6.527 million in November compared with October, the Labor Department said on Tuesday in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report.

Layoffs jumped 295,000 to almost 2.0 million, led by the accommodation and food services industry, which dismissed 393,000 workers on a seasonally adjusted basis. A month earlier, layoffs were just 130,000. A year ago, there were 203,000 layoffs.

Hiring in restaurants, bars, and hotels fell to 839,00 from 912,000 in October. Job openings declined by 9,000 to 709,000.

Overall hiring rose to t 5.979 million, up 67,000 from a month earlier, a positive sign indicating that a significant number of businesses continue to take on new workers.

Manufacturing remains a bright spot for the labor market. There were 397,000 hires at U.S. factories, an increase of 21,000 from October and 40,000 above the year-ago level.  Job openings declined to 498,000 in November from 531,000 a month earlier but remain well above the pre-pandemic, year-ago level of 401,000. In fact, this is the second-highest level of openings in manufacturing in records going back to the turn of the century. There were 101,000 layoffs, down from October and only slightly above the year-ago level.

The strength of the recovery in manufacturing demonstrates that President Donald Trump’s policies of bolstering the U.S. factory sector, by imposing tariffs and providing relief from burdensome regulation, has helped the U.S. economy weather the storm of the coronavirus.

Retail held up well—at least on a seasonally adjusted basis. The sector hired 780,000 after seasonal adjusted, in line with the month earlier and above the year-ago level. Retail businesses posted just 663,000 job openings, well below the 752,000 posted at the start of the holiday shopping season a year ago. Layoffs fell 28,000 to 170,000 in November, down from 185,000 a year earlier.

But there is a lot of seasonality in hiring this time of year and some of the adjusted figures may be distorted by unusual movements in the labor market due to the pandemic. Retail trade hiring, for example, increased to 951,000 from 925,000 in October on an unadusted basis. That is actuallay below the year ago unadjusted figure of 958,000.  Unadjusted openings crashed from 855,000 in October to 661,000. Layoffs were on an unadjusted basis were 171,000 in November, almost equal to the adjusted figure, but were much lower in October at 168,00. In other words, unadjusted layoffs climbed a bit even though adjusted layoffs declined. What we’re seeing here may be an indication that some businesses hired early for the holidays to accommodate social distancing restrictions.

Education and health services layoffs rose, led by a 42,000 jump in health services and social assistance to 161,000.  Job openings in education and health services fell to 1.315 million from 1.373 million and hires climbed to 753,000 from 735,000.

The construction sector, boosted by a boom in demand for suburban homes, remains strong.  Hires and openings both held close to the October level, well above the year ago figures. Layoffs were similar to October at 195,000, below the 233,000 recorded for November 2019.

Excluding schools, state and local layoffs climbed to 51,000 from 35,000 in October. Openings fell, on a seasonally adjusted basis, to 361,000, down from 380,000 in October and 386,000 a year prior. Hires notched up to 160,000 from 156,000 a month earlier and were even with the year ago level.

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