Job openings fall to five-month low - but there's still plenty to go around

Job openings in the U.S. may have fallen to a five-month low, but don’t fret.

There are still 6.9 million open jobs, a near-record high, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) released by the Labor Department on Tuesday morning. It’s down by 243,000 from a revised 7.13 million in the prior month, according to the data.

That means job postings still exceed the number of unemployed people in the U.S. by about 870,000, despite falling slightly (there are about 6.3 million unemployed people in the U.S.).  The U.S. unemployment rate ticked up slightly in December, rising to 3.9 percent, while the labor force participation rate also rose slightly to 63.1 percent.

Experts said the rise in the unemployment rate likely stemmed from a jump in the labor force participation rate -- not a shortage in new jobs -- because at 63.1 percent, it's at the highest level in more than a year, tied for the highest rate since 2013.

Most of the job openings were in transportation, warehousing and utilities, according to the data. Job losses took place in other services and construction.

Meanwhile, hiring edged down slightly to 5.7 million from 5.93 million the previous month. Quits fell to 3.4 million and total separations remained largely unchanged at 5.5 million.

The data comes on the heels of the December jobs report, which revealed the U.S. economy added 312,000 jobs -- blowing past Wall Street’s expectations, even after a tumultuous month for the markets that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average post its worst performance since the Great Depression.