Job openings rise to highest level since Sept. 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — Companies in March advertised the most jobs since the peak of the 2008 financial crisis, a sign that hiring is likely to remain healthy in the months ahead.

Job openings rose by 99,000 to 3.1 million in March, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That’s the highest level of openings since September 2008 and the second straight monthly increase.

March’s figure is much higher than the 2.1 million job openings posted in July 2009, one month after the recession ended. But it is still significantly below the 4.4 million openings recorded in December 2007, when the recession began.

Even with the increase, there were 4.3 unemployed people, on average, competing for each available job in March. That’s higher than the ratio of 2 to 1 that economists consider healthy.

Still, job openings have risen 14 percent since January. That’s been matched by greater hiring: businesses added more than 200,000 jobs each month from February to April, the best three-month showing in five years.

The unemployment rate has fallen almost a full percentage point in the past five months.

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