The numbers: The number of job openings in the U.S. totaled 8.8 million in February for the second month in a row, showing a labor market with plenty of residual strength.

Job openings have shrunk from a record 12 million in 2022.

Many openings are never actually filled, but the trend in job postings gives clues on the health of the labor market and the broader economy. New openings are still much higher now than they were before the pandemic started in 2020.

The number of people quitting jobs, meanwhile, rose slightly to 3.5 million, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

Fewer people are quitting now compared to a few years ago, however, in another sign of the labor market losing some of its muscle tone.

Key details: Most of the new job openings were in finance, state and local government and entertainment.

Job openings fell in the federal government and information, a sector that includes the media and some high tech.

The number of job openings for each unemployed worker was flat at 1.4. The ratio is down from a peak of 2.0 in 2022 and almost back to a pre-pandemic norm of around 1.2 or so.

Fed officials had been watching the ratio closely as a gauge of labor-market strength.

The U.S. is forecast to add a strong 200,000 new jobs in March. The jobs report comes out on Friday.

Big picture: The jobs market isn’t red hot like it was a few years ago. Yet plenty of jobs are available, lots of companies are still hiring and unemployment is very low.

What the Fed wants to see is slower growth in wages to help keep inflation under control. Wages are rising more slowly, but they are still increasing faster than the Fed would like.