US employers report 11.4 M job openings, holding at near-record highs

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Prohibiting states from requiring work for welfare programs may be contributing to the labor shortage.

Job openings remained at near record highs, according to a report released Wednesday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. job openings decreased slightly to 11.4 million on the last business day in April, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover report. About 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in April.

New hires were little changed, at 6.6 million, and job separations remained around 6 million.

Unemployment was lower in April than a year earlier in 388 of the 389 metropolitan areas surveyed. About 170 regions had unemployment rates less than 3 percent, with the overall unemployment rate reported in May standing at 3.6 percent.

The news comes as the U.S. battles record inflation not seen in 40 years, with prices on consumer goods up 8.3 percent since last year. 

Economists say that one of the core drivers of inflation, in addition to supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, is an exceedingly high level of employment, what’s sometimes called a “tight labor market.”

High demand for workers pushes up wages and is good news for job seekers. But it also keeps prices high, with industries paying higher overhead to produce their goods.

This means the latest decrease in job openings is bad news for President Biden, who announced a plan to tackle inflation over the weekend and met yesterday with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Speaking Tuesday on CNN, Yellen said she had misjudged the risk posed by inflation when she downplayed it last year.

“I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take,” Yellen said, after following the lead of the Federal Reserve in characterizing it as temporary and insignificant.

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates throughout this year to bolster the purchasing power of the dollar. Last month, the central bank raised its benchmark rate by 50 basis points, or half a percent, which will make it more expensive for banks to lend money.

On Wednesday, the Fed also began a program of “quantitative tightening,” which means selling off the bonds and other securities that the bank buys to stimulate the economy.

All these measures are designed to cool off the economy, which has experienced a roaring recovery that resulted in inflation following global shutdowns in 2020 and 2021.

Some economists are warning that a recession could be looming later this year or next year if underlying issues with supply chains continue to drive up demand.

Updated at 11:26 a.m.

Tags Biden inflation Janet Yellen job openings labor market
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