(Rick Bowmer / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy broke out of its hiring slump in July as employers nationwide added 163,000 new jobs over the month – the most since February, the Labor Department reported Friday.
But the nation’s jobless rate edged up to 8.3% last month, from 8.2% in the prior two months. The number of unemployed workers rose slightly in July, to 12.8 million.
Still, the better-than-expected hiring last month – analysts were forecasting about 100,000 new jobs – ended a string of three straight months of job growth averaging only about 75,000. The slowdown was partly the result of the mild winter weather. Employers also started to pull back in the spring amid a slowing global economy and deepening worries about Europe and the fiscal outlook in the U.S.
The job-growth number for last month still isn’t strong, but will nonetheless be welcomed on Wall Street and by the White House. The economy slowed sharply in the second quarter and is off to a mixed start in the second half of this year, with housing and construction gaining momentum but consumer spending and manufacturing showing signs of weakening.
“While the monthly gain is still relatively small by historical standards, it might help spark somewhat higher consumer optimism and spending,” said Kathy Bostjancic, an economist at the Conference Board, an employer-supported research group.
Job growth in July was led by a solid 49,000 net new positions in professional and business services, a broad category that includes high-paying computer systems companies and lower-paying temporary-help firms.
Manufacturing employment accelerated, adding 25,000 new jobs in July despite reports of falling export orders. Education and healthcare services rebounded from a rare employment drop in June, adding 38,000 jobs in July. Government employment fell by 9,000 as it did in June.
US Unemployment Rate data by YCharts
Retail sales up a robust 4.3% in July
Federal Reserve holds off on stimulus
U.S. manufacturing activity declines again in July