Employers in the U.S. posted 7.4 million open jobs in February, an indication that economic activity was ramping up well before the Biden administration’s stimulus plan was finalized or signed into law in March, data from the Department of Labor showed Tuesday.
Economists had expected the pace of openings to fall. The consensus forecast was for 6.85 million compared with the initial report for January of 6.917 million.
January was revised up to just over seven million job openings.
This was the best level of openings since January 2019. January and February were the first time openings climbed above 7 million since the pandemic struck.
In February, the number of hires edged up to 5.7 million. Hiring may have been held back in areas of the country that experienced an extreme cold snap and frozen conditions in February, particularly in Texas. The strongest region for hiring was the South.
In February, the quits level and rate were little changed at 3.4 million and 2.3 percent. A rising quits level or rate is widely considered a sign of a tightened labor market because they typically signal workers are becoming more confident that they can find a better job.
The number and rate of layoffs and discharges were little changed at 1.8 million and 1.2 percent, respectively.
The gains in openings were driven by private-sector job openings, which rose to 6.732 million from 6.3 million in January. Government openings fell from 719,000 to 635,000. This decline was driven by a steep decline in openings at state and local education. Government hiring at the state level outside of education and at the federal level rose.
The jump in private sector openings was fueled by a big increase in leisure and hospitality, rising from 738,000 to 898,000.
Private sector hires rose from 5,102 to 5,446. Hires in leisure and hospitality rose from 928,000 to 1.154 million.
Hires in construction rose 50,000 to 396,000 even while openings declined from 300,000 to 266,000. Hires in manufacturing jumped top 387,000 from 351,000 and openings ticked up from 537,000 to 538,000.