US job openings rise modestly to 8.8 million in February in strong labor market

U.S. job openings barely changed in February, staying at historically high levels in a sign that the American job market remains strong

The high level of vacancies is a sign of the job market’s strength and endurance. When the Federal Reserve began raising its benchmark interest rates two years ago to combat inflation, most economists expected the higher borrowing costs to send the United States into recession.

Instead, the economy has continued to grow and employers have been seeking new workers and holding on to the ones they already have. Although the unemployment rate rose to 3.9% in February, it’s come in below 4% for 25 straight months, longest such streak since the 1960s.

At the same time, the higher rates have brought inflation down. In February, consumer prices were up 3.2% from a year earlier — down from a four-decade high year-over-year peak of 9.1% in June 2022.

The combination of easing inflation and sturdy job growth has raised hopes the Fed is managing to pull off a “soft landing” — taming inflation without triggering a recession.