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Looking for work? 3 million jobs are available

By Chris Isidore, senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The picture is improving for unemployed job seekers.

In February, hiring picked up and the ratio of unemployed seekers to available jobs improved to reach the lowest level since the end of 2008, according to the latest government readings released Wednesday.

The Labor Department reported that there were 3.1 million job openings in February, up 352,000 from January and 570,000 from year-earlier levels. It was the largest number of available positions since September 2008.

"Today's report was broadly positive and reflects continued improvement in the labor market," wrote Theresa Chen, an economist with Barclays Capital, in a note Wednesday. "We are particularly encouraged by the persistent rise in the job openings rate."

With fewer people unemployed in recent months, there are only 4.4 unemployed job seekers for every opening, an improvement from the ratio of 5.1 jobless for every opening in January.

That ratio, which was an average of two jobless for every open position in the seven years before the start of the recession, reached a high of 6.9 jobless for every opening in July 2009.

The report also showed that the number of new hires by employers in February rose to 3.9 million, up 138,000 from January. Those laid-off or fired was little changed, with 1.6 million dismissals in February, up 50,000 from the January reading, which was a record low since the data started being collected in late 2000.

The number of people quitting their jobs also rose, a good sign for labor market because people typically are more willing to leave their jobs when they have found better positions or have confidence in the job market. There were 1.9 million workers who quit their jobs in February, up 254,000 from January and the highest level of those quitting in two years. To top of page

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