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Job listings fell from July to Aug.

By Associated Press
October 13, 2011

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WASHINGTON - Employers advertised fewer jobs in August than in July, possibly because of wild stock market swings and recession fears.

Companies and governments posted 3.1 million job openings, down from 3.2 million, the Labor Department said. The drop was the first in four months, though July had the most opening in nearly three years.

Nearly 14 million people were out of work in August; an average of 4.6 unemployed workers competed for each opening. In a healthy economy, the ratio is roughly 2 to 1.

Total openings are well above the 2.1 million that were available in July 2009, which was one month after the recession officially ended. But they are far below the 4.4 million jobs advertised in December 2007, when the recession began.

“As soon as companies hear talk of a ‘soft patch,’ they hit the pause button on hiring,’’ said Jeff Joerres, chief executive of ManpowerGroup, the world’s largest staffing agency.

Such caution also means employers are filling jobs more slowly. In the past year, openings have risen 6.8 percent, while actual hiring has increased 3.3 percent.

Employers are also getting pickier, economists say, and are holding out for better-qualified candidates. And they may not be offering enough pay to prospective employees.

Some companies in high-skill industries, such as information technology and advanced manufacturing, say they are having trouble finding qualified candidates.

Employers laid off 1.66 million people in August, down from nearly 1.7 million in July. Hiring picked up in September; the economy added 103,000 net jobs - not enough to lower the unemployment rate.