Job openings in the U.S. fell in the first week of December, a sign the surging Covid cases are taking a toll.

There were an average of 10.7 million job openings posted each day on online sites across the U.S. this month (down slightly from November’s 10.9 million).

Today the Labor Department reported job growth slowed markedly in November from the month before (Employers added 245,000 jobs last month, down from 610,000 in October).

“I’m worried about a temporary stall or backslide as we move into December and January,” said Guy Berger. Lack of any stimulus, increasing restriction and rising Covid cases created a “triple whammy” of factors weighing on the labor market.

“It’s really a question of how much businesses are feeling a crunch and adjusting head count versus ‘I see a light at the end of the tunnel so I’m willing to keep the hiring pipeline open even in these tough winter months,’” said Mr. Berger.

The U.S. seven-day moving average of new Covid-19 cases surpassed 200,000 for the first time on Monday, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data—three times the rate at the peak of the summer surge. More than 104,000 people were hospitalized with the disease as of Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, surpassing the peaks of previous surges in April and July. The country is now averaging 2,200 deaths a day, close to the peak reached in the pandemic’s early months.

“How disruptive this latest surge is—that’s hard to say exactly, but clearly it’s going to be,” said Josh Wright, chief economist at Wrightside Advisors. “But we’ve seen a preview of this, we know which direction it points in and we know it’s not the right one.”

There is some light at the end of the tunnel as 2.5 times more ads for jobs in warehousing and at the U.S. Postal Service were posted in early December, compared with February.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that there were a seasonally adjusted 6.7 million available jobs on the last business day of October. That compared with 6.5 million openings at the end of September, but was down from 7.3 million a year earlier.

Hires remain at 5.8 million in October, while layoffs and discharges rose to 1.7 million, from 1.4 million in September.

The number of job openings in October was well below the 11.1 million people who were unemployed that month.

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Economics, Finance and Investing