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Firms place fewer ads, hire more

WASHINGTON — US employers advertised fewer jobs in July but hired more workers, a mixed sign that suggests only modest improvement in the job market.

Job openings fell 180,000 in July to 3.7 million, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That’s down from 3.9 million the previous month, which was revised lower.

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Overall hiring increased to 4.4 million, up from 4.3 million in June and 4.17 million a year ago. Still, hiring has fluctuated in recent months and remains below the 5 million pace before the recession.

Layoffs dropped to 1.5 million, the lowest level on records dating back to 2001.

The latest data on job openings and turnover reaffirmed the painfully slow but steady progress taking place over the past three years. The economy is adding jobs. But much of the improvement has come from a drop in layoffs — not rapid hiring.

Job openings fell in nearly all industries, including construction, retail, health care, and government. They rose in manufacturing and hotels and restaurants.

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