U.S. JOB OPENINGS declined 561,000 to 6.8 million in November. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/MIKE FUENTES

WASHINGTON – United States job openings fell in November to the lowest level in almost two years, indicating more employers see headcounts sufficient enough to meet demand.

The number of positions waiting to be filled decreased by 561,000 to 6.8 million, the lowest since February 2018, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, released Friday. Openings have steadily declined since a 2018 peak of 7.63 million.

The recent drop in open positions is consistent with moderation in both the job market and the economy. Nonetheless, openings continue to exceed the number of unemployed as the tight labor market makes it difficult to find experienced workers. Labor shortages are also evident in lower-wage industries, which has prompted employers to offer higher pay.

Total vacancies exceeded the number of unemployed by just under 1 million in November, the report showed.

A gauge of United States manufacturing rebounded sharply in January, topping estimates and signaling growth in the beleaguered sector for the first time since July.

The Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers’ index, based on a survey of manufacturers, increased to 50.9 in January from an almost four-year low of 47.8, according to Monday’s data. While just above the 50 level that signals expansion, the monthly advance was the largest since mid-2013. ISM last week revised data back to 2012. Stocks, bond yields and the dollar extended gains after the report.

The gain – exceeding the median projection for 48.5 – reflected sizable improvements in the orders and production components, while the employment gauge contracted at a slower pace. The new orders index jumped to an eight-month high of 52 and the production gauge surged 9.5 points, also the largest gain in more than six years.