The U.S. job market has returned to pre-recession levels in at least one category: layoffs.
Employers let go 1.84 million workers in December, the Labor Department said Tuesday, down from 2.05 million a year earlier and a bit lower than the levels that prevailed prior to the start of the recession in late 2007.
But hiring remains slow: There were 4.18 million people hired in December, up from 4 million a year earlier—but far below 2007′s average of 5.27 million a month. The Labor Department also said there were 3.1 million job openings at the end of December. With 14.5 million people unemployed and looking for work, that meant that there were 4.7 job seekers for every available job, three times the norm in 2007.
“The weakness is definitely in the hiring side,” said Credit Suisse economist Henry Mo.