Job openings dwindle

Employers remain reluctant to hire workers, keeping ratio of job seekers to job openings near record high.

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By Jessica Dickler, staff writer

How will the job situation look in six months?
  • Easier to find a job
  • Harder to find a job
  • About the same

NEW YORK ( -- Job openings fell and layoffs rose in October, according to a government report released Tuesday.

Job seekers still outnumber openings by more than six to one, the greatest differential since the Labor Department began tracking job openings in December 2000.

Job openings: There were 2.5 million job openings in October, down 26% from a year ago, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The job openings rate, an indicator that compares the nation's job openings to the number of jobs and openings overall, was unchanged at 1.9%.

Hiring: For now, employers are still hesitant to add workers. The number of new hires remains near its low since the report began being produced nine years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The survey showed that employers across the board hired fewer than 4 million workers during the month, down slightly from the month earlier.

Compared to other industries, hiring has been strongest in the construction, leisure and hospitality sectors in recent months, which have seen hiring rates of 5.7%, 5% and 4.9% respectively, according to the report. By comparison, the government hiring rate was only 1.2% in October.

Still, construction, leisure and hospitality experienced enormous job losses earlier in 2009 and hiring overall in these industries is down versus a year ago. Meanwhile, government jobs have largely held steady.

Separations: The number of total separations, or turnover, was little changed in October from the previous month.

The report showed that layoffs in October were up slightly from a year earlier and the percentage of workers quitting jobs remained low, indicating that people are still nervous about changing jobs in the current market.

Altogether, this report "doesn't have much in the way of good news," said Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics, a consulting firm in New York. But the report is based on October data, he noted, "a period when the economy wasn't doing better."

More recently, the Labor Department's November jobs report showed that employers trimmed the fewest jobs of any month since the start of the recession and the unemployment rate posted the biggest one-month decline in more than three years.

In November, the U.S. unemployment rate improved to 10%. Before that, the unemployment rate had risen in 12 of the previous 13 months. To top of page

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