FORTUNE -- If you've given up looking for work, it might be a good time to start again.
That's because there are more job openings today than at any point since January 2008, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) report released Tuesday by the Labor Department.
There were 4.2 million jobs open in the U.S. in February, up from 3.9 million in January. The largest increase in job openings occurred in the retail and professional business services sectors, while there were slight dips in the number of openings within the construction, manufacturing, and government sectors between January and February.
Another key data point in the report is the quit rate, or the rate at which workers voluntarily leave their jobs. That remained steady at 1.7% of the workforce, down from the pre-recession norm of more than 2%, but still much higher than the 2009 low of 1.2%. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has specifically stated that she pays attention to this figure when assessing the health of the labor market.
Bear in mind that the JOLTS data released today is for February, whereas last week's job report painted a picture of the job market in March. Today's JOLTS report dovetails with what was generally considered a positive report, and supports economist's arguments that the soft jobs numbers reported this winter were more weather-related than a sign that the economic recovery is slowing.
Today's report suggests that the labor market is slowly but surely improving. It's never easy being out of work and looking for a job, but the data show that it's a lot easier today than a year or two ago.
Amid declining participation in the job market, the unemployment rate has become a less useful tool to gauge the health of the labor market. The Fed will have to turn to other measurements -- namely, the quits rate -- to guide monetary policy.Christopher Matthews - Feb 11, 2014 10:28 AM ET
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