The number of available jobs climbed for more than two straight years. Companies added positions faster than they could fill openings, and that created a strong market (though many of these openings were/are in lower-paying fields).

Job openings dropped by 1.8% year-over-year in December, according to Glassdoor's most recent Job Market Report. That's the first time that has happened in over two years (since March 2017), and while this one drop is not a reason to panic, there has been a disturbing trend.

"The drop in U.S. job openings continues a rapid deterioration in labor demand seen over the past few months, with 530,000 fewer job openings in December than the September peak of nearly 6.2 million open jobs on Glassdoor," wrote Glassdoor's Daniel Zhao. "While the current level of job openings is still healthy, it is a return to the lowest levels seen since July 2018."

Two young women work in a store.

The number of jobs in retail has fallen. Image source: Getty Images.

Pay has continued to climb

It's possible that some of this drop in openings is just a sort of housecleaning. Companies have prioritized jobs they actually expect to fill and taken down ads for ones that they're not getting good candidates for.

This period of low unemployment has always been somewhat atypical, as heavy demand for workers did not send wages dramatically higher. They climbed some, but only modestly, showing that some of these open positions were not deemed valuable enough to pay more.

"Pay growth picked up, increasing to 2.3% year-over-year, its highest mark for 2019," wrote Zhao. "While the acceleration in pay growth is good news for workers today, the declining demand for new workers raises the question: how long can payrolls keep expanding if employer demand wanes?"

Median base pay currently sits at $54,614. Growth has been steady, roughly 2% a month, but many (six) of the jobs with the fastest wage growth pay less than the median, while two others hover just over it.

Top 10 Job Titles With Fastest Pay Growth

Job Title

Median Base Pay

YoY %

Loan Officer



Financial Advisor



Machine Operator



Web Developer



Security Officer



Emergency Medical Technician



Retail Key Holder



Pharmacy Technician



Property Manager



Design Engineer



Source: Glassdoor Job Market Report

It's a developing market

The number of openings is only part of the story. Having lots of low-paying retail jobs benefits some people, but they're generally not going to elevate the people who hold them into the middle class. The current trend, however, shows that retail has also taken a step back.

"Retail has shed 82,000 job openings since peaking in September, accounting for much of the overall decrease seen in December," wrote Zhao. "That represents a 7.2% decrease year-over-year, as e-commerce continues to sap consumer dollars from more labor-intensive traditional retailers."

It's also fair to say that some of the loss of traditional retail jobs has been offset by growth in the shipping industry. Consumer shopping habits are changing and that's causing workforce adjustments.

Don't read too much into one month. This is a slight pullback where a robust job market (at least by number of openings) becomes a tiny bit less robust. It's not a sign of a coming collapse -- it's just a small reversal that's worth keeping an eye on.