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Good news for America!
Months out from the midterm elections, Democrats on the campaign trail are now armed with this talking point: No matter how you look at it, the economy is steadily gaining strength.
The Labor Department said Friday that the economy added 209,000 jobs in July while the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.2 percent. While Fridays jobs report was less robust than many economists had expected, it still helps paint a broad picture of a strengthening labor market.
Over the last 12 months, the average monthly jobs gain was 209,000, and the unemployment rate is now 1.1 percentage points lower than it was a year ago. Friday marked the sixth straight month that more than 200,000 jobs have been added to the economy the longest streak since 1997. The July employment data also included upward revisions to the previous two months payroll figures from 224,000 to 229,000 in May and 288,000 to 298,000 in June, for a total of 15,000 additional jobs.
It is a sign of how far the US economy has come in recent months that the 209,000 increase in non-farm payroll employment in July will probably be viewed as a disappointment in the markets, said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics.
The July jobs report also capped a solid week of economic news. Following a dismal first quarter when the U.S. economy contracted at a rate of 2.1 percent, the government announced on Wednesday that gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 4 percent in the second quarter of this year far surpassing expectations. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve took one more step this week toward winding down its bond buying stimulus program as it noted that economic activity had rebounded this spring.
The uptick in the unemployment rate can in part be explained by the fact that 329,000 workers entered the labor force last month. One weak spot in the jobs report that continues to be of concern is the average hourly earnings, which was virtually unchanged last month and has only risen by 2 percent over the last year.