U.S. job openings, hirings slip in October: govt

People gather while awaiting the start of seminars for job seekers at an employment center in San Francisco, California November 20, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. job openings and hirings fell in October, government data showed on Tuesday, highlighting the continued distress in the labor market.

Job openings fell by 80,000 to a seasonally adjusted 2.51 million, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

The job openings rate, a gauge of how many jobs were still open at the end of the month, was steady at 1.9 percent.

Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said the drop in job openings meant there were 6.3 job seekers competing for one position in October, considering that the number of unemployed people had risen by 558,000 to 15.7 million.

“Given the large number of job seekers per job opening, it is unsurprising that the jobless are getting stuck in unemployment for long periods and that the labor market is seeing record rates of long-term unemployment,” she said.

The labor market, the biggest casualty during the worst U.S. recession in 70 years, has started to inch toward stability. However, skepticism over the strength of the economic recovery that started in the last quarter has seen companies reluctant to hire workers on a wide scale.

The Labor Department report showed hirings fell by 95,000 to 3.97 million in October, causing the rate of hiring to dip to 3.0 percent from 3.1 percent in September.

Given the weak labor market, fewer workers are quitting their jobs. Job separations fell by 122,000 to 4.20 million in October, the department said. The job separations rate, which measures all terminations of employment, slipped to 3.2 percent from 3.3 percent in September.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Carole Vaporean