The economy created 288,000 jobs in June, the fifth straight month of strong job creation above 200,000 per month, the Labor Department said today. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.1%, the lowest rate since September 2008. Those gains follow additions of 217,000 jobs in May and 304,000 in April, figures that were both revised upward. The economy has added more than 200,000 jobs in each of the past five months, a streak it last matched during the 1999-2000 tech boom. It's a sign that the sluggish half-decade recovery from the Great Recession is finally building momentum.
But in a separate report, the department said the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits edged up slightly last week, rising 2,000 to 315,000. But those numbers still indicate a healthy labor market, and the four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility was essentially unchanged. The average has fallen by 9% since the beginning of this year. Unemployment benefit applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the declines indicate that companies are cutting fewer jobs. (Read more unemployment stories.)