Job openings in April soared to their highest level in almost seven years in another sign of the labor market's growing strength.
Openings are now "in shouting distance" of their prerecession high, 4.6 million, in March 2007, observed Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.
"Full employment here we come. The economy is better than you think," he said in a research note to clients Tuesday morning.
While openings surged in April, employers' pace of hiring did not change much. Hirings were 4.7 million, about the same as the previous two months, the Labor Department said.
That's better than a year ago when hirings averaged 4.4 million in the first four months of 2013, but before the recession — in 2004 through 2007 — monthly hirings were routinely over 5 million.
Tuesday's report comes from the Labor Department's monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which is closely followed by economists and Federal Reserve policymakers for its insights into labor market trends.
The report shows openings grew in every region of the country in April. The sharpest improvement was in the Midwest, where openings increased 13% from March and topped a seasonally adjusted 1 million for the first time since August 2001.
The South led in total openings, as it always does, with 1.6 million seasonally adjusted. In the West, openings were about 1 million and in the Northeast, 771,000.
Separations, which include layoffs, discharges and quits, were unchanged from March.
The quits rate, a gauge of workers' confidence in their ability to find a new job after leaving one, was also unchanged at 1.8%.
But the report overall complements other recent indicators of improving employment.
The government reported Friday that as of last month, the economy had more than recovered all of the 8.7 million jobs lost in the 2007-2009 recession and its aftermath. With job gains in excess of 200,000 in February through May, employment is 8.8 million above its low in February 2010.
Last month, employers added 217,000 jobs. May's unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.3%.