Job openings in the U.S. eased in March from an almost five-year high, indicating employers are waiting to see how the economy performs as federal budget cuts take effect.

The number of positions waiting to be filled declined by 55,000 to 3.84 million from a revised 3.9 million the prior month that were the most since May 2008, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Hiring decelerated and firings climbed, the report also showed.

Bigger strides in the pace of hiring are needed to propel wage gains and drive the U.S. economy at the same time Americans contend with higher taxes. Limited job openings indicate companies may be reluctant to add staff amid signs the expansion is slackening this quarter.

"The pace of improvement in the labor market is slowing along with growth, but job growth is still strong enough to bring the unemployment rate down over time," Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist in New York for Barclays Plc, said before the report. "Both things can be true at the same time, and that's where we think we are."

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