U.S. job openings unexpectedly increase in December

WASHINGTON, Feb 1(Reuters) - U.S. job openings unexpectedly rose in December, showing demand for labor remains strong despite higher interest rates and mounting fears of a recession, potentially keeping the Federal Reserve on its policy tightening path.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased 572,000 to 11.0 million on the last day of December, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, on Wednesday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 10.250 million job openings.

Federal Reserve officials were due to wrap up a two-day policy meeting later on Wednesday. The U.S. central bank is expected to raise its policy rate by 25 basis points. The Fed last year raised its policy rate by 425 basis points from near zero to a 4.25%-4.50% range, the highest since late 2007.

The Labor Department reported on Tuesday that wages and salaries increased in the fourth quarter at their slowest pace in a year.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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