Aug. 5 (UPI) — The U.S. economy added almost 530,000 jobs during the month of July, the Labor Department said in its monthly labor assessment on Friday — a figure that’s more than twice what analysts expected.
The Labor Department said that 528,000 jobs were added last month. Most economists projected the report would only show about 250,000 new jobs. The department noted that the unemployment rate fell to 3.5% for the month.
“Job growth was widespread, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and health care,” the Labor Department said in a statement.
“Both total nonfarm employment and the unemployment rate have returned to their February 2020 pre-pandemic levels.”
Friday’s report said that the leisure and hospitality sector added 96,000 jobs, led by growth in food and drinking places (74,000). Despite the increase, leisure and hospitality remained below its February 2020 level by 1.2 million. Professional and business services added 89,000 hirings last month.
The report was welcome good news for Americans and President Joe Biden‘s administration, which has been dealing with inflation and high gas prices over the past several months.
“The unemployment rate matches the lowest it’s been in more than 50 years,” Biden said in a statement. “More people are working than at any point in American history. That’s millions of families with the dignity and peace of mind that a paycheck provides.
“And, it’s the result of my economic plan to build the economy from the bottom up and middle out. I ran for president to rebuild the middle class — there’s more work to do, but today’s jobs report shows we are making significant progress for working families.”
Friday’s report noted that the average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose 15 cents in July to $32.27. Over the past 12 months, that average has increased 5.2%.
Economists had predicted that higher interest rates ordered by the Federal Reserve would significantly affect jobs, and the job numbers Friday could encourage the Fed to keep hiking rates. Last month, it ordered a .75% hike, which was the largest in decades.