US job openings fall to lowest level in 8 months

The biggest declines in job openings occurred in professional and business services.

FILE - In this Wednesday, May 18, 2016, file photo, a "Now Hiring" sign hangs in the window of a Dollar General store in Methuen, Mass. On Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, the Labor Department reports on job openings and labor turnover for August. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers posted the fewest jobs in eight months in August, a sign job gains will likely remain modest in the coming months.

The Labor Department said Wednesday job openings dropped nearly 7 percent to 5.4 million, down from 5.8 million in July. That month’s total had been a record, but was revised lower.

The data adds to recent evidence that hiring may be slowing a bit from the robust pace of the previous two years. Yet the economy is still generating enough jobs to lower the unemployment rate over time. And most economists have expected jobgains to taper as the number of unemployed has dwindled.

The biggest declines in job openings occurred in professional and business services, which includes accountants and engineers as well as temp workers, and manufacturing.

The number of people who quit their jobs remained mostly unchanged at nearly 3 million. That’s up 4.4 percent in the past year, though the total has flattened in recent months. Quitting is a sign that Americans are more optimistic about the jobmarket and their chances of finding work.

It also can push up wages, as people are more likely to quit for a new job at higher pay.

Layoffs declined slightly and remained near pre-recession lows. Many employers say they are having trouble finding the new employees they need, which suggests they are more likely to hold onto their current staffers.

“Nearly two-thirds of job separations are people voluntarily quitting rather than getting laid off or fired,” Jed Kolko, chief economist at job site Indeed. “That’s a good indicator that workers are confident they’ll find new jobs.”

The figures come after last Friday’s jobs report, which showed that employers added just 156,000 jobs in September, while the unemployment rate ticked up to 5 percent. Job growth has averaged a solid 178,000 a month this year, but that is down from about 230,000 last year.

Wednesday’s report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS, provides a more detailed reading of the job market than the Friday employment numbers.

The JOLTS shows that total hiring in August slipped less than 1 percent to 5.2 million. That hiring figure is a gross total. Friday’s jobs report calculates a net total of gains after subtracting those who quit, retired or were laid off. Gross hiring was 3 percent higher in August compared with a year ago.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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