WASHINGTON — Employers in April posted the fewest job openings in five months, suggesting hiring will remain sluggish in the months ahead.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings fell to a seasonally adjusted 3.4 million in April, down from 3.7 million in March. The March figure was the highest in nearly four years.

There were 12.5 million unemployed people in April. That means there was an average of 3.7 people competing for each open job. In a healthy job market, the ratio is usually around 2 to 1.

Openings have risen by almost a third since the recession ended in June 2009. But they are still below pre-recession levels of about 5 million per month.

April’s decline in openings has coincided with a sharp slowdown in hiring. Employers added an average of only 73,000 jobs in April and May. That’s down from an average of 226,000 in the first three months of this year.

The drop in openings was particularly steep in professional and business services.