U.S. businesses may have started to begin significant hiring as the number of job openings at the end of April was the highest in more than a year, a government survey showed on Tuesday.

The number of job openings rose to 3.1 million from 2.8 million in March, the U.S. Labor Department said in its monthly Jobs Opening and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) survey. The April figure was the highest level since December 2008. That left the job openings rate at 2.3 percent, up from 2.1 percent in March.

This is a quite positive report, which indicates that the ongoing rebound in demand is causing firms to look to increase employment as they ramp up production, said Nicholas Tenev, an analyst at Barclays Capital.

The rate of hires, measured as a percentage of the total number of people employed, remained unchanged in April at March's two-year high of 3.3 percent.

The improvement in job availability was broad-based, with only retail trade and government showing declines in job opening rates. Construction, manufacturing, and professional and business services all had significant increases in job opening rates, Tenev added.

The separation rate, which includes workers who quit, retire or get laid off or fired, remained at its record low of 3.1 percent.

The report lags last week's announcement that the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent in May as the economy added 431,000 jobs in the month, mostly temporary Census workers.

The economy added just 41,000 private-sector jobs in May.

The private-sector hiring rate remained at 3.7 percent in April, while the private-sector job openings rate rose to 2.4 percent in April from 2.2 percent in March.

The private-sector separation rate fell to 3.4 percent in April from 3.5 percent in the previous month.

(Reporting by Corbett B. Daly; Editing by Jan Paschal)