NATIONAL NEWS

U.S. job openings rise to 10.1 million as the labor market stays strong despite rate hikes

May 31, 2023, 7:14 AM

A hiring sign is displayed at a restaurant in Buffalo Grove, Ill., Wednesday, May 10, 2023. On Wedn...

A hiring sign is displayed at a restaurant in Buffalo Grove, Ill., Wednesday, May 10, 2023. On Wednesday, the Labor Department reports on job openings and labor turnover for April. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. job openings rose unexpectedly in April, illustrating the resilience of the American labor market even as the Federal Reserve attempts to cool the economy in its fight against inflation.

Employers posted 10.1 million job openings last month, up from 9.7 million in March and the most since January. Economists had expected vacancies to slip below 9.5 million.

Layoffs fell, but the number of people quitting their jobs — a sign of confidence that they can find better pay or working conditions elsewhere — slid last month.

The Fed has raised its benchmark interest rate 10 times in the last 14 months, making it more expensive for businesses to borrow and invest. The central bank is hoping achieve a so-called soft landing — raising rates enough to slow hiring, economic growth and price increases without tipping the world’s biggest economy into recession.

Economists are skeptical and many expect a recession to start later this year.

Inflation has come down steadily from the four-decade highs it reached in mid-2022. But consumer prices still rose 4.9% in April from a year earlier — well above the Fed’s 2% year-over-year target.

Hiring has slowed after posting the best two years on record in 2021 and 2022. Employers added 666,000 jobs from February through April — decent numbers by traditional standards but still the weakest three months of job creation since January 2021.

But surprisingly resilient consumer spending and a wave of retirements since COVID-19 hit the economy in early 2020 have kept the labor market tight. The unemployment rate fell to 3.4% in April, tying a 54-year low.

The Labor Department issues job figures for May on Friday. Forecasters surveyed by the data firm FactSet expect that the economy generated 188,000 new jobs last month (down from 253,000 in April) and that the unemployment rate blipped up to 3.5%.

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U.S. job openings rise to 10.1 million as the labor market stays strong despite rate hikes