The number of jobs waiting to be filled dropped slightly in January, the government said on Tuesday.

There were 3.46 million available jobs at the end of January, down from an upwardly revised 3.54 million in December, according to the Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Job openings at the end of the month - unfilled, posted vacancies that employers plan to fill within 30 days - help describe demand for labor in the United States.

The number of openings has risen about 45 percent since the end of the 2007-09 recession, although they remain well below the 4.3 million job openings at the start of the recession, the Labor Department said.

In January, private sector job openings fell by 81,000 from December, with trade, transportation and utilities openings dropping by 20,000 and professional and business services openings falling by 56,000.

Manufacturing employers added 33,000 job openings, and arts, entertainment and recreation openings rose by 35,000. Government job openings were unchanged in January.

Hiring also slipped slightly in January to 4.16 million from an upwardly revised 4.19 million hires in December.

The jobless rate was 8.3 percent in January, down from 8.5 percent in December, and it held steady at 8.3 percent in February, data from the Labor Department showed this month.

President Barack Obama is counting on continued payrolls growth to help him win re-election in a tough economy in November. Although the unemployment rate has fallen in recent months, it remains well above pre-recession levels.

The rate at which workers were separated from jobs by lay-offs or quits, a measure of labor turnover, was unchanged at 3.0 percent in January. The rate at which people quit their jobs, an indicator of workers' confidence in their ability to find new jobs, also was unchanged in January.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey encompasses employment data from more than 16,000 establishments across the country.

(Reporting By Emily Stephenson; Editing by Andrea Ricci)