updated 9/7/2011 10:46:05 AM ET 2011-09-07T14:46:05

Companies advertised the most job openings in nearly three years, a hopeful sign after the worst month for hiring in nearly a year.

The Labor Department says employers posted 3.2 million jobs in July, up from 3.17 million in June. That is the largest number of openings since August 2008. Typically, it takes anywhere from one to three months to fill an opening.

There's heavy competition for each job. Nearly 14 million people were out of work in July, so roughly 4.3 unemployed workers were competing for each opening. That's a slight improvement from June, when the ratio was 4.45.

More openings don't guarantee more jobs. The government said last week that employers failed to add any net jobs in August, the worst month for hiring since September 2010.

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