May 07, 2013 01:47 PM EDT

Job Openings Drop Slightly in March: JOLTS

U.S. employers posted fewer job openings in March compared with February and slowed overall hiring, suggesting the labor market recovery has shifted into a lower gear, government data showed on Tuesday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday released its latest Job Openings And Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) which showed that the number of job postings waiting to be filled declined by 55,000 to 3.84 million from a revised 3.9 million the prior month that were the most since May 2008. The report also showed hiring decelerated and firings climbed.

The Labor Department said 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 department said last week that employment growth picked up in April, although recent data has suggested the U.S. labor market recovery has lost momentum since the end of the first quarter.

In another ominous sign, people quit their jobs at a slower rate in March than in February. And about 4.3 million people were hired in March, down from 4.45 million in February and 4.4 million in March 2012. Back in March 2007, 5.35 million people got hired. In other words, hiring is going nowhere fast.

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.

Construction firms, manufacturers, and health care providers also advertised fewer positions.

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