WASHINGTON – U.S. employers posted more job openings in February, a sign that hiring likely will improve in the months ahead.
Employers advertised 4.2 million job openings, up 7.7 percent from January, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That’s the highest number of postings since January 2008, when the Great Recession was just beginning and the economy had yet to suffer the full shock of the downturn.
There are roughly 2.5 unemployed Americans for each open job, the report shows. That average has slowly been approaching the 2 to 1 ratio is typical of healthier economies, after peaking at 6.7 unemployed people for each available job in July 2009, just after the recession ended.
Total hiring rose 1.5 percent to 4.6 million in February. That’s still less than a healthy job market, where around 5 million people are hired each month.
The number of people who quit their jobs rose slightly last month, the report said, while layoffs declined.
The additional data in the JOLTs report illustrates how much turnover is happening in the job market. Stronger job markets usually include a greater amount of churn, with more people quitting and greater overall hiring.
A rise in those quitting jobs can be a positive sign because people often depart for a new job or have confidence they will find one. More quits also open up more positions for job-seekers.
Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, has said the central bank monitors the quits and hiring figures as key indicators of the job market’s health. The figures help the Fed decide how to manage short-term interest rates and other efforts to foster financial stability.
Openings rose in February in retail and business services, as well as in construction, education and health care, and hotels and restaurants. They dropped in manufacturing and retail.