WASHINGTON — U.S. employers advertised slightly fewer jobs in August as hiring ticked up modestly.
The number of U.S. job postings on the last business day of August dipped to 6.49 million, down from 6.7 million in July, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Those postings are off more than a half million compared with last year at this time, when employers advertised 7.17 million job openings.
Hiring in August edged up to 5.92 million, slightly above the 5.90 million job applicants hired the previous month.
The government reported last Friday that the U.S. economy generated 661,000 jobs in September. It was the third consecutive month of slower hiring after an initial burst as the U.S. emerging from virus-related lockdowns in the spring.
The unemployment rate in September fell to 7.9%, down from 8.4% in August and a high of 14.7% in April. Before the pandemic hit, unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5% in February.
In August, 2.79 million workers quit their jobs, down from 2.93 million in July figure.
The number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs had been viewed as a signal about how comfortable people are in leaving a job to find a better one, but it may suggest something else now. With the job market still weak, economists believe some people are quitting to avoid becoming infected with COVID-19, or to take care of children who can't go back to school due to related lockdowns.
"More people quitting their jobs used to be seen as a sign of confidence in the economy that there was plenty of work out there, but this recession seems to have confused the meaning of this," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG, a global financial group. "There are not nearly enough openings around to take up the Americans without paychecks this recession."
So far, the economy has gained back about half of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April.