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Job openings fall 2d straight month

Slow hiring is huge hurdle as numbers remain far below prerecession levels

There are now five unemployed workers, on average, for each available job, says the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. There are now five unemployed workers, on average, for each available job, says the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)
By Christopher S. Rugaber
Associated Press / August 12, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Company job openings fell for the second straight month in June, a sign that hiring is not likely to pick up in the coming months.

The data come after a weak employment report Friday that showed businesses are not adding enough new workers to bring down the unemployment rate, currently 9.5 percent.

Yesterday’s report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS, suggests that will not change soon.

The survey counts job openings on the last day of the month. Those openings may take up to three months to fill, economists say. That means yesterday’s report provides a rough signal of how many jobs will be created over the next several months.

The Labor Department says job openings at businesses fell to 2.54 million in June from 2.6 million in May. Overall openings were unchanged, at 2.9 million, as government openings ticked up. The figures have been distorted in recent months by the ending of hundreds of thousands of temporary census jobs.

June’s total openings are 26 percent above the low point of 2.3 million in July 2009. That may seem like a lot of available jobs, but they are still far below prerecession levels of about 4.4 million openings per month.

The report illustrates the level of churn in the job market. About 4.25 million people found jobs in June, the report showed, while 4.35 million lost them. That’s equal to a net loss of about 100,000 jobs.

The report suggests that slow hiring is the biggest hurdle facing the nation’s workforce. Layoffs by private companies fell to just below 1.7 million, similar to the pace before the recession. Private sector layoffs rose to a peak of 2.5 million in January 2009.

“It is disappointing that one year into the recovery, the number of private job openings is still lower than that reported during the 2001 recession,’’ Henry Mo, an economist at Credit Suisse, wrote in a note to clients.

During the 2001 recession, job openings averaged nearly 3.8 million per month, about 28 percent higher than current levels.

The recession that began in December 2007 has not officially been declared over, but most economists believe the recovery began in July 2009.

The 4.25 million hires in June is only about 4 percent higher than the 4.1 million hires at the beginning of this year.

Yesterday’s report also illustrates how much competition there is for those jobs that are available. There are now five unemployed workers, on average, for each available job. That compares with about 1.8 per opening when the recession began.

On Friday, the government said the nation lost a net total of 131,000 jobs in July. Excluding the impact of the loss of 143,000 census jobs, the economy added a meager 12,000 positions, as layoffs by state and local governments almost canceled out weak hiring by private employers.

Among industries, manufacturing, hotels, and restaurants reported an increase in available jobs in June. Construction, retail, and professional and business services reported declines.