Employers added 215,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate held at a seven-year low of 5.3 percent, signs of further progress in the U.S. labor market that’s keeping the Federal Reserve on the path toward raising interest rates as soon as next month.
The gain in payrolls last month followed a 231,000 advance in June that was bigger than previously estimated, a Labor Department report showed Friday in Washington. While the data also showed a pickup in hours worked, average hourly earnings climbed a less-than-forecast 2.1 percent from a year earlier, indicating little momentum in wage growth.
The persistent pace of hiring this year indicates companies are sanguine about prospects for demand in the face of a tempered global growth outlook. Better job security that leads to bigger wage gains could encourage consumers to spend more freely and provide more momentum for the economy.
“The Fed is close to tightening — it doesn’t need to see a lot more improvement, just a little more,” Dana Saporta, an economist at Credit Suisse Securities USA LLC in New York, said before the report. “Data that shows continued diminishing of slack in the labor market is sufficient” for policy makers to raise interest rates this year.
Retail led the industries adding to headcounts in July, followed by health care and leisure and hospitality. Manufacturing payrolls rose by the most in six months on gains among non-durable goods producers. More jobs were also added in construction.
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