Many Federal Reserve officials earlier this month wanted to see more evidence that the economy was recovering before shifting toward a tapering of their bond purchase program, the Fed said on Wednesday.

"Most observed that the outlook for the labor market had shown progress since the program was started in September," according to minutes of the Fed's April 30-May 1 meeting.

"But many of these participants indicated that continued progress, more confidence in the outlook, or diminished downside risks would be required before slowing the pace of purchases would become appropriate."

At the meeting, the Fed voted to keep buying bonds at a $85 billion monthly pace.

In a sign of divisions on the policy-setting committee, the minutes highlighted an active debate over how soon the Fed should start to scale back its bond-buying stimulus.

"A number of participants expressed willingness to adjust the flow of purchases downward as early as the June meeting if the economic information received by that time showed evidence of sufficiently strong and sustained growth," they said.

The Fed next meets on June 18-19.

(Reporting By Alister Bull and Pedro da Costa; Editing by Tim Ahmann)