WASHINGTON — Finding a job got much tougher last year, as the number of available openings fell by nearly one quarter.
At the same time, the unemployed population soared by more than one-third, leaving more laid-off workers competing for fewer jobs.
All told, there were 6.1 unemployed workers in December, on average, for every available position, according to Labor Department data released Tuesday.
That's a sharp increase from 3.4 jobless workers per opening in December of 2008, and much worse than the 1.7 unemployed people per opening in December 2007, when the recession began.
There were 2.5 million jobs available at the end of December, according to the Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. That includes all jobs publicly listed by companies and government agencies.
That may seem like a lot given the severity of the recession, but that's down from 3.2 million in December 2008. And it's way below the 4.8 million openings that existed in June 2007, the peak reached before the recession.
The picture eased slightly in December from the previous month, as available jobs increased by about 60,000 from November. December's ratio of 6.1 unemployed workers per job was better than November's 6.3, the highest on records dating from 2001.