215K jobs added in July; jobless rate holds steady

215K jobs added in July; jobless rate holds steady
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The U.S. economy added a solid 215,000 jobs in July, right on par with expectations, and a sign that the labor market is steadily strengthening.

The Labor Department on Friday reported that the unemployment rate held for the second straight month at 5.3 percent, a seven-year low.

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The improving economy, which hit a snag earlier this year after the severe winter, has been a boon for President Obama and is raising the chances that the Federal Reserve will follow through with a long-anticipated rate raise as early as September.

Obama hailed the two-year run of private-sector job growth as the best in 15 years.

"It is a testament, I think, to the incredible ingenuity and resilience of the American people," Obama said during a bill signing in the Oval Office on Friday.

Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen has said she expects the first rate increase in nine years before the end of 2015. But the labor market will need to continue showing signs of growth before the central bank will make a move.

July marks the third straight month of at least 200,000 jobs added after dipping below that level this spring.

Adjusted previous estimates showed employers hired 14,000 more workers than initially stated in May and June.

Jason FurmanJason FurmanTrump looks for longer boost from economy US economy grew at 3.2 percent in first quarter, exceeding expectations The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms MORE, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said on MSNBC that “we’re going to continue to push everything we can to complete this recovery and have even faster wage growth."

The labor market has created more than 5.5 million private-sector jobs over the past two years — more than in any two-year period since 1997 to 1999, the White House said. 

“But despite the rapid pace of recent growth, some slack left over from the financial crisis remains in our labor market, and there is more work to do to ensure that we continue to make progress,” Furman said. 

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerScaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' Israel should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support Lobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom MORE (R-Ohio), though, said that while more workers got jobs last month, “the president’s policies aren’t delivering the strong, sustained economic growth families need to get ahead.”  

“Wages are flat, incomes are down, and more Americans are in poverty than when the president took office,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerScaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' Israel should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support Lobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom MORE said. “We can do better.”

Overall, the private-sector posted its 65th consecutive month growth, a new record that continues to put space between the Clinton administration’s 51 months of expansion.

Still, wage growth remains stagnant even as the labor market makes gains, up only 2.1 percent over the past year.

There are signs that employers are anticipating more consumer spending in the coming months.

Retailers added 35,900 workers and restaurants added 29,300 in July.

The housing market, which is showing signs of acceleration, helped boost construction jobs by 6,000.

Meanwhile, manufacturers added 15,000 jobs even as the strengthening dollar has weighed on the sector's expansion.

Last updated at 1:04 p.m.