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US Unemployment Aid Applications Plummet To 346K

Still, layoffs are only half the equation. Businesses also need to be confident enough in the economic outlook to add more jobs.

Companies are posting more open positions but have been slow to fill them. Their reluctance to hire suggests that they are still cautious about the economy.

The Labor Department reported earlier this week that companies advertised about 11 percent more job openings in February than in the same month a year earlier. But the number of people hired each month declined over that time.

Employment experts and staffing firms say many businesses have become highly selective and appear to be waiting for perfect candidates.

Much of the increase in net job gains earlier this year was a result of declining layoffs. Job cuts fell in January to the lowest level in the 12 years that the government has tracked the data.

Economists think economic growth accelerated in the January-March quarter to an annual rate of 3 percent. That would be a vast improvement over the annual rate of 0.4 percent in the October-December, which was held back by steep defense cuts and slower restocking by companies.

One concern is that across-the-board government spending cuts that began on March 1 will shave a half-percentage point from growth this year. That may have also made businesses cautious about hiring last month.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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