The government's monthly employment report came as something of an early Fourth of July firecracker, showing that U.S. employers added a better-than-expected 288,000 new jobs in June.
And after holding at 6.3 percent for two months, the nation's jobless rate fell to 6.1 percent -- the lowest level in almost six years. The number of unemployed people decreased by 325,000 to 9.5 million.
'Climbing out of the slump'
"Today's employment report confirms that the economy is climbing out of the slump we saw in the first quarter," says Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial in Chicago.
The number of jobs added in June was higher than the 210,000 that analysts expected and above the average of 197,000 jobs added per month over the past year.
There were notable gains in the professional and business services sector, which added 67,000 jobs last month. Retail trade was not far behind; it added more than 40,000 jobs.
The employment report continued to reflect the harsh winter that lingered much longer than anybody wanted or expected. "In June, schools that were shut down for snow days and unusually cold weather stayed open much longer than usual, which boosted education employment at the local level by more than 20,000 jobs," Swonk says.
She notes that the jobless rate for teens increased to 21 percent in June, which could be explained by the late end to the school year.
April and May better than 1st thought
The latest employment report also included April and May revisions. There were 304,000 jobs added in April, up from the previously reported 282,000, and May was revised from 217,000 to 224,000. Together, nearly 30,000 more jobs were added during those two months.
The progress made in the employment situation is "welcome news," but not enough to make the Federal Reserve adjust its monetary policy, Swonk says.
"We would all like to see a lower unemployment rate with more people participating in the labor force and getting paid more," she says. "Until we see that, the Fed will stay on course, remaining cautious on when and how quickly to raise interest rates."
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