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United States job openings hit 13-year high

WASHINGTON--The number of U.S. job openings hit a 13-year high in June and more workers quit their jobs, pointing to a tightening labor market, Labor Department data showed Tuesday.

Nonfarm job openings in the private and public sectors rose to 4.7 million on the last business day of June, from 4.6 million in May.

That was the largest number of openings since February 2001, and increases were seen across the entire country. Job openings have trended upward since January by an average of 159,000 a month.

In June, the ratio of openings to employment rose a tenth point to 3.3 percent, according to the department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) report.

A total of 2.53 million people quit a job in June, up from 2.49 million in May. Quits generally indicate workers' willingness or ability to leave jobs, a positive sign for the labor market.

But the quit rate stood at 1.8 percent of total employment for the fifth consecutive month in June.

Total separations, or turnover, which includes quits, layoffs, discharges and other forms of separations, such as retirement and disability, rose to 4.55 million in June from 4.53 million in May.

Hiring meanwhile increased by 92,000 jobs to 4.83 million.

“Quits are creeping higher, though like hires, they are not back to where they were prior to the start of the Great Recession,” said Marisa Di Natale of Moody's Analytics.

The JOLTS report added fresh evidence of a firming labor market. Initial unemployment claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, have trended lower, bringing the four-week moving average to its lowest level since February 2006.

The U.S. economy has added more than 200,000 jobs per month from February through July, the first time since 1997 the economy has generated that many for six months straight.

The Federal Reserve says that despite the sharp fall in the unemployment rate to 6.2 percent, there remains significant slack that has left far too many Americans without jobs.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen, in testimony to Congress in mid-July, said the central bank could hike its key interest rate sooner than the current forecast for the second half of 2015 if the job market continues to make solid improvement.

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