U.S. job openings hit a high point, 11.5 million, in March.

 U.S. employers posted a record 11.5 million job openings in March, and some 4.5 million Americans quit or changed positions, matching previous highs, reflecting continued strength in the rapidly growing labor market, where workers continue to have the upper hand.

Meanwhile, the number of new hires — 6.7 million — remained steady, according to a report released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Demand for workers remains white-hot,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. “This is very broad, enormous growth. Even though we’ve almost recovered all of the jobs lost in the pandemic, the labor market just keeps getting tighter and tighter."

The strong job openings and worker quits data could play into discussions about curbing inflation at the Federal Reserve, which is expected to announce another interest rate hike, by a half-percentage point on Wednesday. Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell has cited the “extremely, historically” tight job market as a major reason he says the economy can withstand higher interest rates without tumbling into recession.

U.S. employers have added more than 400,000 jobs a month for nearly a year, while the unemployment rate of 3.6 percent remains near record lows. Wages have continued to rise — 4.7 percent in the year ending March 2022 — although they have not kept up with inflation, which has grown 8.5 percent in the same period.

And while workers continue to feel emboldened to freely switch jobs, they may not quite have the leverage they did even a few months ago, said Guy Berger, an economist at LinkedIn.

“From workers’ perspective, their bargaining power is still high, but it’s no longer increasing,” he said.

In Long Beach, Calif., Paula Hardy recently left her job as a chiropractor at a women’s clinic to start her own mobile practice. After working six days a week for much of the pandemic, she says she felt burned out and unappreciated.

“I went from making six figures a year to way less than that,” said Hardy, 38, who is also taking classes to become an acupuncturist. “But I’d rather be doing my own thing and eating ramen noodles, even if it is harder financially.”

It was the second time Hardy switched jobs during the pandemic. The first time, in December 2020, she left a position as a chiropractor for longshoremen at the Port of Los Angeles after her boss insisted she keeps coming to work even while she was sick with the flu.

“I was already disillusioned,” she said. “Then I got sick, and it was clear they didn’t care. The pandemic made me realize I don’t have to put up with that.”

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