The number of jobs waiting to be filled fell in August, underscoring the pain in the labor market where millions of unemployed workers have been shut out of the economic recovery.
There were only 3.06 million available jobs at the end of August, down from July's downwardly revised 3.21 million, according to the Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released on Wednesday.
Monthly job openings -- unfilled, posted vacancies that employers plan to fill within 30 days -- help describe demand for labor. The number has consistently hovered well below the 4.4 million openings registered in December 2007, before the 2007-2009 recession.
Some 8 million Americans lost their jobs in the recession and only 1.4 million of those jobs have come back during the recovery.
Hiring rose marginally in August, with businesses and government hires climbing to 4.01 million from 3.98 million a month earlier, too small a gain to bring down the U.S. unemployment rate.
The rate at which workers were separated from jobs by layoffs or quits, a measure of labor turnover, was 3.1 percent in August.
President Barack Obama has been counting on the economic recovery to help his re-election campaign, but an unemployment rate stuck above 9 percent and painfully slow jobs growth is putting his chances of winning a second term at risk.
In a modest bright spot for workers, the Labor Department report on Wednesday showed the rate at which people quit their jobs, which can indicate workers' confidence in their ability to find new jobs, rose to 51 percent in August from 50 percent in July.
The rate of layoffs was 42 percent.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey encompasses employment data from about 16,000 establishments across the country.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)