As employers trim payrolls to cope with the slumping economy, the ranks of the nation's unemployed now outnumber available jobs by three to one, the Labor Department reported this week.

A study of the job market and labor turnover found the rate of new job openings has declined steadily over the past year. It currently stands at 2.3 percent, the report said.

There are now 9.5 million unemployed Americans workers facing the lowest hiring rate since May 2003.

The latest employment figures were drawn from a survey of businesses in all 50 states, covering the period up to the end of August.

On Thursday, the agency reported a dip in the number of new claims for unemployment benefits last week. While new jobless claims fell by 20,000 to 478,000, the total is up by more the 150,000 over the same period last year, the report showed.