US employers slowed their hiring in July, adding 157,000 jobs, a solid gain but below the healthy pace they maintained in the first half of this year and down from expectations of 190,000 jobs. The Labor Department says the unemployment rate ticked down to 3.9% from 4%. That's near an 18-year low of 3.8% reached in May. Employers added an average of 224,000 new workers in the first six months of this year, a faster pace than in 2017, reports the AP.
The pickup has impressed many economists because it's happening late in the economic expansion, which has entered its 10th year and is now the second-longest in US history. The economy grew in the April-June quarter at its fastest pace in four years. Business and consumers are optimistic, suggesting solid hiring is likely to continue. Average hourly earnings are up 0.3% to $27.05, putting the year-over-year gain at 2.7%. The Wall Street Journal characterizes wage growth as "sluggish in recent months even as the unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest level in decades."
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