WASHINGTON — U.S. employers posted more open positions in February, but the number of people getting hired and the number quitting jobs fell. The overall figures suggest that the job market remains healthy, although it has yet to take off during the early stages of the Trump presidency.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings rose 2.1 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted 5.7 million. While more employers are seeking workers, hiring fell 2 percent compared to January to 5.3 million. Job openings have increased 3.2 percent over the past 12 months.
More than 2.5 million people quit their jobs in February, but that was a sharp 19.6 percent decline from January. This may be a sign that workers have mixed confidence about the economy, since workers typically quit either when they have another job, or are optimistic they can find one.
An increased pace of quits can also boosts wages, because most people quit for a new job at higher pay. It also indicates that employers may be recruiting workers from other jobs by offering bigger paychecks.
The government said last week that employers added a net total of 98,000 jobs in March. But on average over the past three months, employers have added 178,000 jobs a month_an average that economists say is closer to the underlying trend. The unemployment rate fell two-tenths to 4.5 percent.
Those figures are net gains after layoffs, quits and retirements are subtracted from overall hiring.
Tuesday’s data come from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS. They are more detailed and provide a fuller view of the job market than the monthly jobs report.