The number of U.S. job openings in February hit the highest level in more than six years, a trend that could precede faster employment growth in coming months,MarketWatch reported.


There were 4.17 million job openings in February -- the most since January 2008 - and up 4 percent from a year earlier, the U.S. Labor Department reported. Openings in the private sector rose 5 percent over the year, while government openings declined.


"Typically openings precede payroll gains," analysts at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates wrote today in an analysts' note.


According to Stone & McCarthy, recent readings for open jobs are consistent with monthly nonfarm payroll employment gains of about 200,000 per month. Monthly gains of 200,000 jobs would be a somewhat faster pace than an average increase of 178,000 over the first quarter of this year, according to government data.


Also of note, there were 2.5 unemployed workers per opening in February, the lowest ratio since July 2008 and down from 2.6 workers per opening in January.