U.S. job openings hit a four-year high

Job seekers stand on line in June during Job seekers stand on line in June during a job fair in California. A new report from the U.S. Labor Department said job postings hit 3.8 million in June, up from 3.7 million in May. That's the most since July 2008. Layoffs fell. (June 13, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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U.S. employers posted the most job openings in four years in June, a positive sign that hiring may pick up.

The Labor Department said Tuesday job openings rose to a seasonally adjusted 3.8 million in June, up from 3.7 million in May. That's the most since July 2008. Layoffs fell.

The data follow Friday's report that employers in July added the most jobs in five months. A rise in openings could signal better hiring in the coming months. It typically takes one to three months to fill a job.

Even with the increase, hiring is competitive. There were 12.7 million unemployed people in June, or an average of 3.4 unemployed people for each job.

That's down a bit from May and much lower than the nearly 7-to-1 ratio in July 2009, just after the recession ended. In a healthy job market the ratio is usually around 2 to 1.

Employers added 163,000 jobs in July, the department said last week. That followed three months of weak hiring and eased concerns that the economy was stalling.

Yet the economy has generated an average of 150,000 jobs per month this year, about the same pace as in 2011. That's not enough to rapidly drive down the unemployment rate.

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The unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent in July from 8.2 percent in June.

In June, manufacturing, education and health care, and hotels and restaurants all posted more openings. Retailers and state, local and federal government agencies cut available jobs.

Tuesday's report shows the amount of hiring and firing that takes place in the United States each month.

Layoffs dropped to 1.8 million in June, from nearly 2 million in May. June's total is below pre-recession levels and indicates that companies aren't cutting more jobs, despite sluggish growth.

And the number of people who quit their jobs also ticked down slightly to 2.1 million, from 2.2 million in May.

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