U.S. job openings were flat in June while the number of new hires slipped, according to a government report on Wednesday that underscored the persistent weakness in the labor market.

The Labor Department said there were 2.9 million job openings in June, almost identical to May's tally.

With some 14.6 million people unemployed in June, the figures indicate there were five job seekers for every available position.

The sluggish pace of job growth remains one of the biggest threats to the fragile economic recovery. As long as unemployment remains high, demand will be tepid which means companies have little need to hire more workers.

In the year before the December 2007 start of the recession, job openings were typically around 4.5 million, which shows just how far job creation has fallen.

Hires totalled 4.3 million in June, down from 4.6 million in the previous month. Separations, which includes people who quit, retired, or were laid off, rose to 4.4 million from 4.2 million a month earlier.

The hires rate, a measure of how many people were added to payrolls in the month, dipped to 3.3 percent in June from 3.5 percent, while the separations rate edged up to 3.3 percent from 3.2 percent.