Job openings remain scarce for unemployed

By Chris Isidore, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- The number of job openings increased slightly in August, but there was no real improvement of the odds that unemployed workers will find a job, a government report showed Thursday.

There were 3.2 million job openings in August, up from 3.1 million positions that were available in July, the Labor Department said.

That means there were 4.6 unemployed job seekers per job opening, unchanged from the previous month.

That's an improvement from the record high of 6.2 job seekers per opening set in July, August and November of last year. But there was little improvement this summer as job growth nearly stalled out.

The ratio of job openings to the number of unemployed was only two-to-one from the end of 2000, when the Labor Department started tracking openings, to the month before the recession started in December 2007. But it has averaged 4.2-to-1 since the start of the recession. The ratio has lingered between 4.6 and 5.1 job seekers per opening since April.

But the pace of hiring slowed slightly in August, according to the report, with new hires slipping to 4.1 million from 4.3 million in July.

Friday the Labor Department is due to report September employment numbers. Economists surveyed by are forecasting no change from August in the number of workers on payrolls. The unemployment rate is expected to creep up to 9.7% from 9.6%. To top of page

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