https://thehill.com/policy/finance/overnights/3508834-on-the-money-us-firms-still-desperate-for-workers/

Job openings are down from record highs—but not by much. We’ll also look at President Biden’s relationship with the Federal Reserve and a dire warning from a big bank CEO. 

But first, former students of a certain college are on track for some debt relief

Welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. For The Hill, we’re Sylvan LaneAris Folley and Karl Evers-Hillstrom. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

US job openings hold at near-record highs 

Job openings remained at near record highs, according to a report released Wednesday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

  • U.S. job openings decreased slightly to 11.4 million on the last business day in April, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover report.  
  • About 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in April, most of which likely did so for better opportunities or compensation. 
  • New hires were little changed at 6.6 million, and job separations remained around 6 million. 

The context: Economists say that one of the core drivers of inflation, in addition to supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, is an exceedingly high demand for employment, what’s sometimes called a “tight labor market.” 

High demand for workers pushes up wages and is good news for job seekers. But it also keeps prices high, with industries paying higher overhead to produce their goods. 

Toby explains here. 

BIDEN’S BIG BET 

Biden hedges inflation backlash with focus on Fed 

President Biden’s relationship with the Federal Reserve has come under the spotlight as the White House touts the central bank’s leadership of the fight against inflation.  

Biden met with Fed Chair Jerome Powell at the White House on Tuesday as the administration touts its efforts to curb rising prices. The meeting came one day after the White House laid out a plan for fighting inflation focused on allowing the Fed to act without interference from the administration. 

  • While Biden did not specifically mention the Fed’s ongoing series of interest rate hikes, the president appeared to send an unmistakable message of support for the central bank’s attempts to slow price growth. 
  • Experts say that Biden’s emphasis on the Fed’s independence is meant to signal he is serious about fighting inflation even if it means a politically inconvenient slowdown in job gains and economic growth before the midterm elections. 

But by summoning the Fed chair to prove his mettle on inflation, Biden is following in the footsteps of his predecessors with a careful political hedge: using the bully pulpit to boost pressure on the Fed while deflecting political consequences from the White House. 

“It’s interdependence. The president and the White House always need someone to blame. The Fed is a natural target for blame,” said Sarah Binder, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of “The Myth of Independence: How Congress Governs the Federal Reserve.” 

Sylvan has more here 

Read more: In shift, White House starts to talk up economy

JAMIE’S WARNING 

JPMorgan Chase CEO warns of economic hurricane: ‘You better brace yourself’ 

The chief executive at JPMorgan Chase offered a grim financial outlook on Wednesday, warning of an economic “hurricane” and advising those listening that “you better brace yourself.” 

“It’s a hurricane. Right now, it’s kind of sunny, things are doing fine. Everyone thinks the Fed can handle this,” Jamie Dimon said during a financial conference. 

“That hurricane is right out there down the road, coming our way. We just don’t know if it’s a minor one or Superstorm Sandy or Andrew or something like that, and you better brace yourself,” he added. 

The JPMorgan Chase chief executive spotlighted two issues he was concerned about: How the Russia-Ukraine war is affecting rising prices for fuel and food, and the Fed’s efforts to raise interest rates and reduce its balance sheet to tackle inflation. 

Caroline Vakil has it all here

TOKEN INTO CUSTODY

Former NFT marketplace manager accused of insider trading 

The Justice Department on Wednesday indicted a former manager of a prominent NFT marketplace on charges related to insider trading. 

Nathaniel Chastain, former product manager for NFT marketplace OpenSea, was arrested in New York and charged with one count each of wire fraud and money laundering, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. He was arrested in New York by the FBI. 

In an indictment unsealed Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, the Justice Department accused Chastain of using confidential information gained through his job at OpenSea to buy and sell NFTs for a profit. 

  • NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital files — often images or art — tracked and verified as unique on a blockchain, the distributed ledger system used to run cryptocurrencies. 
  • OpenSea emerged as one of the most popular marketplaces for NFTs, and Chastain amassed more than 30,000 followers on Twitter touting the platform’s success and helping users navigate the market. 
  • From June to September 2021, Chastain allegedly used advance knowledge of which NFTs OpenSea would feature on its website to purchase those tokens before they were spotlighted by the platform.  
  • He then sold the featured NFTs by OpenSea at anywhere from two to five times the price he paid for the tokens, according to the indictment. 

Sylvan has the latest here.

Good to Know

Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down after 14 years with the company, she announced Wednesday. She will continue to serve on the company’s board of directors. 

Here’s what else we have our eye on: 

  • United Airlines is planning to invest $100 million to expand its training center in Denver, Colo., as part of a broader push to enlarge its workforce and hire more pilots and airline staff. 
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent an email Tuesday ordering the company’s employees to return to the office at least 40 hours per week, according to Electrek. 
  • Amazon is ramping up criticism of a key antitrust bill that aims to rein in the e-commerce giant’s power, in part by trying to distance itself from the other tech giants targeted by the proposed legislation.  

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow. 

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