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Washington – U.S. companies posted the fewest open jobs in seven months in December, yet the number of Americans quitting their jobs rose to a 17-year high, a mixed reading on the job market.

The Labor Department says job openings dropped 2.8 percent to 5.8 million. That’s still a healthy level and up 4.9 percent from a year earlier. The number of people quitting rose 3.1 percent to 3.26 million, the most since January 2001.

More quits are generally a positive sign for the economy, because most Americans leave their jobs when they already have another position, typically at higher pay, or are confident they can find one. The figure suggests companies, which are desperate for workers, are offering bigger salaries to lure people away from their current jobs.

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