"Now hiring" sign displayed at a fast food restaurant in California

U.S. job openings remain high, with nearly twice as many openings as unemployed people

WASHINGTON (AP) — The white-hot demand for U.S. workers cooled a bit in April, though the number of unfilled jobs remains high and companies are still desperate to hire more people.

READ MORE: U.S. job market extends hiring streak with 428,000 jobs in April despite surging inflation

Employers advertised 11.4 million jobs at the end of April, the Labor Department said Wednesday, down from nearly 11.9 million in March, the highest level on records that date back 20 years. At that level, there are nearly two job openings for every unemployed person. That’s a sharp reversal from the historic pattern: Before the pandemic, there were always more unemployed people than available jobs.

The number of people quitting their jobs remained near record highs at 4.4 million in April, mostly unchanged from the previous month. Nearly all of those who quit do so to take another job, typically for higher pay.

Historic levels of open jobs and quits, which force employers to pay more to attract and keep workers, are driving solid wage gains for America’s workers, particularly those that switch jobs.

Yet higher pay also leads most companies to raise prices to cover at least part of their higher labor costs, adding to inflation pressures, which Americans increasingly cite as their top national concern.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has targeted the high level of available jobs and hopes that by raising interest rates, the Fed can slow demand for workers and bring down the number of openings. Powell and other Fed officials have said their goal is to reduce openings and slow wage increases to cool inflation, potentially without forcing many layoffs.