WASHINGTON (AP) - Job openings rose in August for the second straight month and layoffs dropped sharply, evidence that the job market is slowly healing.
The Labor Department says the number of jobs advertised rose nearly 2 percent, to 3.2 million. That's the highest since April, when temporary census hiring inflated that month's figure.
Job openings at private companies rose slightly to 2.85 million, the highest in 21 months.
Even with the increases, the number of available jobs is far below the 4.4 million advertised in December 2007, when the recession began.
Private-sector layoffs, meanwhile, dropped sharply to 1.6 million in August, the lowest in more than four years.
In a separate report, the Labor Department says first time claims for unemployment benefits fell last week by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 445,000. It's the lowest level since July and the fourth drop in five weeks.