WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — U.S. job openings fell in April to the lowest level since 2021. 

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that employers posted 8.1 million vacancies in April, down from a revised 8.4 million in March. The March figures had originally come in at 8.5 million.

Still, layoffs fell, and the number of Americans quitting their jobs — a sign of confidence in their prospects — rose in April.

Monthly job openings have come down steadily a peak of 12.2 million in March 2022 — as the economy’s recovery from COVID-19 lockdowns left companies desperate for workers — but they remain at a high level. Before 2021, they never topped 8 million — a threshold they have now reached for 38 straight months.

The high level of job openings reflects a surprisingly strong U.S. labor market. When the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in March 2022 to combat a resurgence in inflation, the higher borrowing costs were expected to tip the economy into recession and push up unemployment.

Instead, the economy kept growing and employers continued to hire. The United States has averaged a solid 234,000 new jobs a month over the last year.

The Labor Department is expected to report on Friday that employers added another 180,000 jobs, according to a survey of forecasters by the data firm FactSet.

The unemployment rate is expected to come in at 3.9%, which would be the 28th straight month it’s been below 4%. That would be the longest such streak since a 35-month run from 1951 through 1953 during the Korean War.

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