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Expand chart
Data: BLS via Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of job openings in the U.S. declined consistently throughout 2019 and took a nosedive in the last two months of the year, the government's December Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) showed.

The state of play: Job openings declined by 364,000 in December after a decline of 561,000 in November.

  • The total number of openings fell to 6.4 million, the lowest in nearly two years, and the decline over the past year is the largest since the financial crisis.

Why it matters: “Net, net, job openings around the country are plummeting in a way that we hate to say looks like a recession,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, told CNBC.

  • Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, told Barron's “It’s clear here that with a 2%-type GDP economy rather than something near 3% has resulted in a lesser demand for labor.”

Yes, but: The numbers in the rest of the JOLTS report tell a different story.

  • The total hire rate increased for the month, from 3.8% to 3.9%, and separations increased just 0.1 percentage point, to 3.8%.
  • The all-important quits rate, seen as a top measure of worker confidence, held steady at 2.3%, still near the highest level on record.

Go deeper: U.S. economy adds 145,000 jobs in final report of 2019

Go deeper

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

1 hour ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.

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