WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers extended their solid hiring into July by adding 209,000 jobs. It was the sixth straight month of job growth above 200,000, evidence that businesses are gradually shedding the caution that had marked the 5-year-old recovery.
Still, July’s gain was less than in the previous three months and probably wasn’t strong enough to intensify fears that the Federal Reserve will soon raise interest rates to curb inflation.
In early trading Friday morning, stock averages were mixed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell, suggesting less concern about a Fed rate increase.
The unemployment rate ticked up in July to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent as more Americans started looking for work. Most didn’t find jobs, but the increase suggests that they’re more optimistic about their prospects. The jobless aren’t counted as unemployed unless they’re actively seeking work.
Average job gains over the past six months reached 244,000 in July, the best such average in eight years.
“Job growth slowed in July after heated gains in the past three months,” Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, noted in a research note. “But hiring trends remain solid, reflecting a strengthening economy.”
The pickup in hiring has yet to translate into larger paychecks for most Americans, a key factor that has hobbled the recovery. In July, average hourly earnings ticked up just a penny to $24.45. That’s just 2 percent higher than it was 12 months earlier and is slightly below current inflation of 2.1 percent. In a healthy economy, wages before inflation would rise 3.5 percent to 4 percent annually.
Weak pay gains are restraining the housing market, usually a key driver of growth. A measure of signed contracts to buy homes slipped in June, the National Association of Realtors said this week. That suggests that home sales will decline in coming months.