WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers posted fewer job openings in March compared with February and slowed overall hiring, underscoring a weak month of job growth.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings fell 1.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted 3.8 million jobs. Total hiring declined 4.3 percent to 4.3 million.
The unemployed faced heavy competition in March. There were 3.1 unemployed people, on average, for each job opening. That's above the ratio of 2 to 1 that is typical in a healthy economy.
On Friday the government reported that employers added just 138,000 net jobs in March, well below February's 332,000. Tuesday's report shows that the slowdown occurred because gross hiring fell and layoffs increased.
Job growth picked up in April. The economy added 165,000 net jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent from 7.6 percent in March.
April's gain, along with sharp upward revisions to the totals for February and March, suggests that the job market is improving steadily. Employers have now added an average of 208,000 jobs per month from November through April. That's much higher than the average of 138,000 in the previous six months.
Half of the decline in March's job postings was because governments at all levels advertised fewer positions. Most occurred at the federal level, which was affected by across-the-board spending cuts that began on March 1. The federal government reduced job openings by 30 percent in March compared with February.