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WASHINGTON | Wed Sep 7, 2011 11:02am EDT (Reuters) - The number of jobs waiting to be filled edged up slightly in July but hiring dipped, preventing a much-needed boost to the struggling economic recovery, government data showed on Wednesday.

There were about 3.23 million available jobs at the end of July, a small increase from June's 3.17 million, according to the Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

The rate at which workers were separated from jobs by layoffs or quits, a measure of labor turnover, was unchanged. But hires fell from 4.06 million in June to 3.98 million in July, indicating employers were not filling open jobs quickly enough to bring down the U.S. unemployment rate.

President Barack Obama has been counting on the economic recovery to help his reelection campaign. The still-high unemployment rate, 9.1% in July, as well as a disappointing payrolls reading that showed the economy added only 85,000 jobs during the month, put that at risk.

August payrolls numbers were worse, with the economy adding no net jobs during the month.

Obama will make a highly anticipated jobs speech on Thursday to detail his plan for reviving the economy.

Monthly job openings — unfilled, posted vacancies that employers plan to fill within 30 days — help describe demand for labor. The number has consistently hovered well below the 4.4 million openings in December 2007, before the economic recession, according to the Labor Department.

The report showed the rate at which people quit their jobs, which can indicate workers' confidence in their ability to find new jobs, was unchanged in July.

The rate of layoffs also was little changed.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey encompasses employment data from about 16,000 establishments across the country.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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