U.S. employers added more than 200,000 jobs in July, the sixth straight month of growth of that magnitude, signaling the strength of the economy continues to inspire hiring.
But businesses added a less-than-expected 209,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported, and the unemployment rate ticked higher. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected nonfarm payroll employment to increase 233,000 last month. The unemployment rate increased to 6.2% from 6.1% the prior month, while economists had predicted it would remain at 6.1%.
Job gains in the latest month occurred in professional and business services, as well as manufacturing, retail trade and construction. The number of long-term unemployed, defined as those jobless for 27 weeks or longer, was essentially unchanged at 3.2 million. Those individuals accounted for about a third of the unemployed.
“I think overall the labor market is getting healthier and I would expect the private sector will report gains in line with what we’ve seen on average the last several months,” said Bob Hughes, senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research.
The U.S. economy has bounced back in the months after a harsh winter, with gross domestic product in the second quarter expanding more than economists had expected. And while the Federal Reserve earlier this week said underlying strength in the broader economy supports continued improvement in labor conditions, “significant underutilization of labor resources” remain. The labor force participation rate stood at 62.9% in July. That metric has been weak in recent years.
Hughes said the job growth reported in the last few months has been fairly broad based, which is an encouraging sign. And while wages haven’t yet achieved historical growth rates, Hughes is hopeful that the labor market has tightened enough to bring wages higher.
“The wealth effect has been kicking in but we need the income growth the wage growth to boost spending into higher gear,” Hughes said.