Job openings rose sharply earlier this year, a sign that employers might be preparing to step up hiring.
The number of openings in January rose about 7.6 percent, to 2.7 million, compared with December, the Labor Department said. And the job openings rate climbed to 2.1 percent, the highest in nearly a year. That rate measures available jobs as a percentage of total employment.
There are now about 5.5 unemployed people, on average, competing for each opening. That's still far more than the 1.7 people who were competing for each opening when the recession began. But it's down from just over 6 people per opening in December 2009.
The gradually brightening jobs picture corresponds to what many job-search Web sites are reporting.
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