Business

May's job openings signal tepid summer

WASHINGTON — It's shaping up to be a long, tough summer for job seekers. The number of job postings didn't increase in May, the latest sign that hiring is unlikely to pick up any time soon.

Employers advertised nearly 3 million job openings, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That is the same amount as in April and down from 3.1 million in March.

May's figure is higher than the 2.1 million job openings posted in July 2009, one month after the recession officially ended and the lowest total since the government began recording the data a decade ago. But it is also significantly less than the 4.4 million openings recorded in December 2007, when the recession began.

There's heavy competition for each opening. In May, nearly 14 million people were out of work. So, roughly 4.7 unemployed people, on average, competed for each available job. In a healthy economy, the ratio is about 2 to 1.

The report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, doesn't include temporary or contract positions.

June probably was an even worse month for job openings. The Conference Board, a business research group, has said online job postings dropped last month. And SimplyHired.com, the world's largest job search engine, said last week that online postings fell in June for the second straight month.

"Employers are less confident in the economy right now," said Gautam God hwani, CEO of SimplyHired.com. "We're starting to see some softness, and I would expect that to continue."

The economy generated only 18,000 net jobs in June, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, the government said last week. That followed an abysmal showing in May, when employers added only 25,000 jobs.

Companies have pulled back sharply on hiring after adding an average of 215,000 jobs a month from February through April. The economy typically needs to add 125,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. And at least twice that many jobs are needed to bring down the unemployment rate.

Layoffs rose in May, too. Nearly 1.8 million people were laid off or fired in May, the most in nine months, the Labor Department report said.

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