The US economy churned out solid job growth last month that looks likely to leave the US Federal Reserve on track for an interest rate increase this year.
The economy added 215,000 jobs last month, the US Department of Labor said on Friday, marking 65 straight months of gains — the longest streak on record — for a total of 13 million jobs.
“In the last six years, the American people have worked really hard to bounce back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” US President Barack Obama said.
In another positive sign, job growth in May and June was stronger than first thought, by a combined 14,000 payrolls.
The department revised the number in June to 231,000 and in May to 260,000.
That brought the average monthly jobs gains to 235,000 over the past three months, heightening expectations that the Fed could raise its near-zero federal funds rate as early as next month.
The unemployment rate held steady at a seven-year low of 5.3 percent, as expected. That is close to the 5 to 5.2 percent range the Fed views as normal for maximum employment over the longer run.
The Fed has held the benchmark federal funds rate near zero since late 2008 to support the economy’s recovery from the Great Recession, and has said it would carefully move rates higher to avoid derailing growth.
In its policy statement late last month, the US Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said it would consider it appropriate to raise the fed funds rate when it had seen “some further improvement” in the labor market and was “reasonably confident” that inflation, now tepid, would move back toward its 2 percent target.
“There can be no doubt in our view that today’s employment report does indeed represent ‘some further’ improvement in the labor market — if not more,” New York-based UniCredit Group SpA chief US economist Harm Bandholz said. “It, therefore, further strengthens our view for the first rate hike in September.”
Fed policymakers still have this month’s jobs report to digest, just days before the Sept. 16-17 FOMC meeting.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said the rate hike was likely this year, and next month’s meeting is one of three before the year ends.
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