A snapshot of US job market on eve of Feb. data

WASHINGTON (AP) — After hiring skidded December and January, the importance of today's employment data to be released by the Labor Department is magnified, especially since other key economic indicators like auto buying and existing-home sales surrendered to a harsh winter.

Economists surveyed by FactSet predict that employers added 145,000 jobs in February and that the unemployment remains 6.6 percent.

The Labor Department data could help confirm the belief that nasty weather froze much of the job market — and that spring should bring a bounce back. The February jobs report could also expose some frailties of a still-sluggish economic recovery.

Many economists also pay close attention to a more obscure indicator: job openings online. The private Conference Board said this week that advertised openings in February rose 268,100 to 5.19 million. This increase matters because it points to pent-up demand for workers.

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