WASHINGTON -- Employers advertised more jobs in September than at any other point in the past three years, a hopeful sign that companies may step up hiring.
Businesses and governments posted 3.35 million job openings, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That's a 7 percent increase from August and the most since August, 2008, one month before the financial crisis intensified.
Even with the gain, competition for each job is heavy. Nearly 14 million people were out of work in September, which means an average 4.2 unemployed workers were competing for each opening. That's slightly better than in August but it is still more than twice the 2 to 1 ratio that economists say is healthy.
Companies typically take one to three months to fill a position. So the increase in postings suggests hiring could pick up in coming months.
Job openings have rebounded from a decade low of 2.1 million in July, 2009. Still, there were 4.4 million openings in December, 2007, when the recession began.
The economy added 158,000 net jobs in September. Hiring slowed a bit in October as employers added only 80,000 jobs, the fewest in four months. Still, the unemployment rate dipped in October to a six-month low of 9 percent, from 9.1 percent, because more people said they found jobs.
And October may end up looking better if the government revises the job totals, as it did with the August and September figures.
Initially, the government said employers added zero jobs in August. The department now says there was a net gain of 104,000 jobs that month. September was also revised sharply higher.