Hiring rate increases modestly in February

The pace of hiring by employers increased slightly in February, the Labor department said on Tuesday in a report that gave a positive sign for the American job market.

The hire rate - the percentage of workers hired relative to total employment - ticked up a tenth of a percentage point to 3.3 percent during the month, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) on Tuesday.

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The report is based on a separate survey than the Labor Department's monthly survey of employer payrolls, which has shown strong gains in employment in February followed by a sharp slowdown in March.

Tuesday's report also showed that job openings - a measure of labor demand - increased to a seasonally adjusted 3.9 million in February from 3.6 million in January.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by James Dalgleish)