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U.S. job openings unexpectedly rose in December to 11 million

U.S. job openings unexpectedly rose in December, a sign the American labor market remains hot and a blow to the Federal Reserve's efforts to cool it down.

Openings in December rose to 11 million, up from 10.4 million in November, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Economists had expected job openings to drop slightly in December. The rate of layoffs and employees quitting both ticked up slightly that month.  

"With 76.4 million Americans starting new jobs, 2022 is the year with the largest number of completed hires on record,"Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, said in a note. By contrast, layoffs last year came in at just three-quarters of their typical level—despite a spate of layoff announcements from tech companies.

The American job market has been surprisingly resilient throughout this period of economic uncertainty. The latest figures put additional pressure on the Federal Reserve, which has been trying to slow the labor market with interest-rate hikes.

Combating inflation that last year hit a four-decade high, the Federal Reserve has hiked its benchmark rate seven times since March and is expected to announce another rate increase later Wednesday.

Employers created 375,000 jobs a month in 2022 — the second most in Labor Department records dating back to 1940 — and likely added another 185,000 last month, according to a survey of forecasters by the data firm FactSet. January's hiring numbers come out Friday.

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