Vacancies at U.S. companies retreated at the start of the year but remained historically elevated, highlighting persistent labor tightness that supports a higher level of interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

The number of available positions decreased to 10.8 million in January, from an upwardly revised 11.2 million a month earlier, the Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed Wednesday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 10.5 million openings.

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