U.S. employers advertised slightly fewer jobs in August than July, while they filled the most positions in three months, offering a mixed signal for the job market.
The Labor Department said Wednesday that job openings dropped by 32,000 to 3.56 million in August. July’s openings were also revised lower.
In one positive sign, employers hired 4.39 million people in August – the most since May.
The number of available jobs has jumped about 63 percent since the recession ended three years ago. It remains well below the more than 4 million jobs a month advertised before the recession.
The job market remains very competitive. With 12.5 million people unemployed in August, there were 3.5 unemployed people, on average, competing for each open job. In a healthy economy, that ratio is 2 to 1.
The figures come after a positive jobs report on Friday. That report showed that the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month from 8.1 percent in August.
It fell because a government survey of households found that 873,000 more people had jobs, the biggest jump since January 2003, but the gains were mostly because of an increase in part-time jobs.
Employers added 114,000 jobs last month, according to a separate survey of businesses.
In New Mexico, the state posted its third month of negative job growth in August. The rate of over-the-year job growth, comparing August 2012 with August 2011, was negative 1.5 percent, representing a loss of 12,400 jobs, according to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.
Government payrolls shrank by 5,800 jobs from their year-earlier total, with losses ongoing at all three levels: state, down 3,700; federal, down 1,700; and local, down 400. Professional and business services, down 5,700, posted a similar dip, while construction was down about 3,000.
Hiring must get stronger to bring relief to the more than 12 million people who are unemployed. Roughly 100,000 new jobs are needed each month to keep up with the working-age population.
Journal staff contributed to this report.