WASHINGTON — U.S. employers advertised more jobs in August but hiring was essentially flat, further evidence of a job market that has weakened after a promising start to the year.
The Labor Department said today that job postings rose 75,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.9 million in August. July’s total was revised much higher to 3.8 million. Still, the number of job openings has changed little since February.
Employers hired 4.5 million people in August, about the same as the previous month.
More people are quitting their jobs, a positive sign that signals growing confidence in the job market. Most people quit when they have a new job or believe they will be able to find one. Total quits have jumped 7.2 percent in July and August to 2.35 million, the highest level in nearly five years.
In a healthy economy, between 2.5 million and 3 million people quit their jobs.
The figures come after this week’s disappointing jobs report. Employers added just 148,000 jobs in September, the government said Tuesday. That’s below the 193,000 gained in August. The unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent from 7.3 percent.
Job gains averaged a healthy 207,000 in the first three months of the year, but have since weakened. Employers added an average of 182,000 jobs a month from April through June and just 143,000 a month from July through September.
Those figures reflect net job gains, which is total hiring minus the number of people who were laid off, quit or retired.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, released today, showed overall hiring levels as well as job openings, layoffs and quits. It provides more details than the monthly employment report.
The JOLTS report was delayed more than two weeks by the partial government shutdown, which ended Oct. 16.
Competition for jobs remains tough, although it is improving slowly. In August, there were 2.91 unemployed people, on average, for each available job. That’s down from a peak ratio of 6.7 to 1 in July 2009, one month after the Great Recession ended. And it’s the lowest since August 2008, which was one month before the financial crisis intensified.
In a healthy economy, the ratio is usually 2 to 1.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who President Barack Obama nominated this month to replace Bernanke, have both said they closely monitor the job openings report.