U.S. employers posted fewer job openings in March compared with February and slowed overall hiring, underscoring a weak month of job growth.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings fell 1.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted 3.8 million jobs. Total hiring fell 4.3 percent to 4.3 million.

The jobless faced heavy competition in March. There were 3.1 unemployed people, on average, for each job opening. That's above the ratio of 2 to 1 that is typical in a healthy economy.

On Friday the government reported employers added 138,000 net jobs in March, well below February's 332,000. Tuesday's report shows the slowdown occurred because gross hiring fell and layoffs increased.

But job growth seems to have picked up in April. Preliminary numbers show the economy added 165,000 net jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent from 7.6 percent in March.

Half of the decline in March's job postings was because governments at all levels advertised fewer positions.

Construction firms, manufacturers, and health care providers also advertised fewer positions.

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Retailers, hotels and restaurants, and entertainment firms were the only major industries to post more job openings in March compared with the previous month. -- AP