Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez says the government is making a fresh $150 million installment to a federal program to help train workers who have lost their jobs in high-demand industries through no fault of their own.

Perez told reporters on Monday that states can apply for grants ranging from $500,000 to $6 million so they may, in his words, “connect job-seekers with well-paying jobs so they can return to the workplace.”

It brings federal spending on related programs to roughly $1 billion over just the past three months.

Perez said the job picture is steadily improving _ if slowly.

In the depths of the 2008-2009 recession, seven or eight job-seekers competed for each opening. Perez said it’s down to 2 1/2 workers per opening now.