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Job openings rise, layoffs decline

WASHINGTON — Employers advertised more job openings in January, suggesting hiring will remain relatively healthy in coming months.

Job openings rose 2.2 percent in January from December to 3.69 million, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Openings had fallen nearly 5 percent in December, and they remain below November’s level of nearly 3.8 million.

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Yet employers laid off the fewest number of workers in January than in any month since records began in 2001. And the number of Americans who quit jobs rose to the highest in more than four years. People usually quit when they have another job, so it may be easier to find work.

The biggest increase in job openings was in professional and business services, which includes high-paying fields such as accounting, engineering, and architecture. It also includes temp jobs.

On Friday, the government said the unemployment rate fell from 7.9 percent in January to a four-year low of 7.7 percent. Still, about 12.3 million people were unemployed in January, which means there were 3.3 unemployed people, on average, competing for each job. In a healthy economy, the ratio is roughly 2 to 1.

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