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Ratio of U.S. job seekers to openings drops to four-year low

Job seekers speak with with job recruiters while they attend the Coast to Coast job fair in New York, May 7, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Job seekers speak with with job recruiters while they attend the Coast to Coast job fair in New York, May 7, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The ratio of unemployed Americans to every job opening fell in June to its lowest level in over four years, a positive sign for wages and the broader economy.

Job openings - a measure of labor demand - climbed marginally to 3.936 million during the month from 3.907 million in May, the Labor Department said on Tuesday.

That meant just under three workers sought each open job, marking a good deal of progress from the dark days of 2009, when the ratio was nearly seven workers per one job. The reading in June was the lowest since October 2008.

Lots of unemployed people chasing just a few jobs means employers have more leverage setting wages, and helps explain some of the recent weakness in U.S. incomes.

Tuesday's data is part of the Labor Department's monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover report, which officials at the U.S. Federal Reserve say they will be watching for signals as to when the labor market is strong enough to warrant less monetary stimulus.

The report also showed 1.6 percent of job holders quit their positions in June, unchanged from the prior month.

The quits rate is seen as a gauge of workers' confidence in the labor market.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Chris Reese)

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