US employers slowed their hiring in July, adding a still-healthy 164,000 jobs to an economy that appears poised to extend its decade-plus expansion, the AP reports. The Labor Department says the unemployment rate stayed at 3.7% for a second straight month, close to a 50-year low. Average hourly earnings increased 3.2% from a year ago, up from annual gains of 3% in June. The pace of hiring has slowed this year as a growing share of Americans already have jobs. The three-month average for job gains was 140,000, down from 237,000 a year ago.
The economy's overall growth, along with consumer spending, has been solid. But business investment has been declining, home sales have weakened, and manufacturers have shown signs of struggling. The US economy has also faced some tumult as President Trump has escalated his trade conflict with China, yet the Federal Reserve voted Wednesday to cut a short-term interest rate to sustain the longest period of growth in US history. The New York Times notes, however, that the figures in the new report, which suggest the economy is cooling, aren't as bad as analysts had anticipated. "These things bounce around," an economist at High Frequency Economics says. "But the trend is still strong enough to keep unemployment down." (Read more jobs report stories.)