U.S. job openings remain near record high in February

WASHINGTON — Job openings hovered at a near-record level in February, little changed from the previous month, continuing a trend that Federal Reserve officials see as a driver of inflation.

There were 11.3 million available jobs last month, matching January’s figure and just below December’s record of 11.4 million, the Labor Department said today.

The number of Americans quitting their jobs was also historically high, at 4.4 million. Many people are taking advantage of numerous opportunities to switch jobs, often for higher pay. The vast majority of those quitting do so to take another position.

The outsize number of available jobs has contributed to rampaging inflation, as many companies have had to raise pay to attract more applicants. In February, there were 1.8 openings for every unemployed worker. Before the pandemic, there were usually more unemployed people than job openings.

The unemployment rate, at 3.8%, is near the pre-pandemic level of 3.5%, which was the lowest in five decades. And there are still several million fewer people working or looking for work than before the pandemic, forcing employers to compete among a smaller labor pool.

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