U.S. employers slowed their pace of hiring in July but the jobless rate fell anyway, mixed signals that could make the U.S. Federal Reserve more cautious about drawing down its huge economic stimulus program.
The number of jobs outside the farming sector increased by 162,000, the Labor Department said on Friday.
That was below the median forecast in a Reuters poll of 184,000. Compounding that miss, the government also cut its previous estimates for hiring in May and June.
At the same time, the jobless rate fell two tenths of a point to 7.4 percent, its lowest since December 2008. Gains in employment fueled some of that decline, but the labor force also shrank during the month, robbing some of the luster from the decline in the unemployment rate.
The data reinforces the view that the job market is inching toward recovery, with the broader economy still stuck in low gear.
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