US job openings surge, a sign that hiring may rebound

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In this April 2, 2015 photo, Nathan Golder, left, speaks to Deborah Kelley, with the Georgia National Guard Family Assistance Center, about employment opportunities during a huge 15-county North Georgia job fair at The Colonnade in Ringgold, Ga. Labor Department releases job openings and labor turnover survey for February on Tuesday, April 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dan Henry) THE DAILY CITIZEN OUT; NOOGA.COM OUT; CLEVELAND DAILY BANNER OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT Nathan Golder, left, speaks to Deborah Kelley, with the Georgia National Guard Family Assistance Center, about employment opportunities during a 15-county North Georgia job fair. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dan Henry)

A Labor Department report Tuesday showed that job openings surged to a 14-year high from 3.4 percent to 5.1 million in February in a clear sign that companies are willing to boost their staffs.

However the figure followed a disappointing jobs report on Friday, which showed that employers added only 126,000 jobs in March — the weakest in 15 months — after 12 straight months of job gains above 200,000.

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The pickup in open jobs suggests that hiring could rebound in the coming months. Businesses have been slow to fill openings for much of the recovery and may start filling more of their open jobs in April.

The sharp rise in available jobs “is a reassuring sign that the fundamentals of the labor market have continued to improve,” said Jeremy Schwartz, an analyst at Credit Suisse.

There were some negative signs in Tuesday’s report. Total hiring slipped 1.6 percent in February to 4.9 million, the second straight decline.

But layoffs fell even more. The declines in hiring and layoffs suggest that employers were cautious in the face of a faltering economy but weren’t spooked enough to cut jobs.

Report filed by The Associated Press