width=398WASHINGTON - More U.S. business hired people in November, but workers had limited choices as the number of jobs open fell despite an economy inching forward, government data showed on Tuesday.

The rate of hires, measured as a percentage of the total number of people employed, rose to 3.2 percent in November, up from 3.1 percent in October and matching the same pace in July, the U.S. Labor Department said in its monthly Jobs Opening and Labor Turnover survey (JOLTS).

The good news in the JOLTS data is that it is showing the hiring rate is starting to pickup a little bit, said Stephen Stanley, chief U.S. economist for RBS in Stamford, Connecticut.

We feel anecdotally ... firms are getting pretty close to a point where they are going to need to hire people, Stanley said. It is pretty clear that the pace of layoffs is slowing down.

The rate of layoffs slowed sharply in recent months as the economy resumed growth after its worse slump in 70 years.

Although the economy grew at a much slower pace in the third quarter than previously thought, it was still the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2007 and ended four-straight quarters of decline in output.

In December, the U.S. Commerce Department's final estimate for third quarter gross domestic product showed it grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate instead of the 2.8 percent pace it reported in November.

While the rate of jobs opening in November, a measure of demand for labor, ticked lower to 1.8 percent from 1.9 percent the previous month, the pace has been steady at either 1.8 percent or 1.9 percent since March 2009, the department said.

Employees left their jobs in November at a slightly faster pace than in October despite a drop in available positions.

The so-called quits rate, a barometer of how easy it is for workers to change jobs, rose to 1.5 percent from 1.4 percent in October and to its highest since a matching 1.5 percent in January, 2009.

The slight rise in the quits rate, which represents voluntary departures, comes against a backdrop of a still weak, but improving, labor market.

The quits rate increased in construction and in the South and West regions of the United States.

A rise in the quits rate should show that workers have more confidence in their ability to find a better job.

In theory that should be the case, Stanley said, but it is hard to imagine that people are getting a lot of confidence in this job market with a double-digit unemployment rate.

Certainly that would be the signal that you would want to take from that. I don't know in this case whether we're looking at evidence of statistical noise or if there is something real going on there, Stanley said.

(Reporting by Nancy Waitz; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)