WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added 163,000 jobs in July, a hopeful sign after three months of sluggish hiring. The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate rose to 8.3% from 8.2% in June.
July’s hiring was the best since February. Still, the economy has added an average of 151,000 jobs a month this year — enough to keep up with population growth but not enough to drive down the unemployment rate.
“After a string of disappointing economic reports … we’ll certainly take it,” said James Marple, senior economist at TD Economics.
Stronger job creation could help President Barack Obama’s re-election hopes in November. Still, the unemployment rate has been above 8% since his first month in office — the longest stretch on record. No president since World War II has faced re-election with unemployment over 8%.
The government uses two surveys to measure employment. A survey of businesses showed job gains. The unemployment rate comes from a survey of households and is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed people by the size of the labor force. In July, more people said they were unemployed, while the size of the labor force shrank even more.
Economists say the business survey is more reliable.
Investors appeared pleased with the report. Futures tracking the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and the Dow Jones industrial average gained about 1%. The stock market is coming off four days of losses. Yields on government bonds also rose as investors moved money out of low-risk assets.
A better outlook on hiring could make the Federal Reserve reluctant to take more action to spur growth. The Fed, which ended a two-day policy meeting Wednesday, signaled in a statement a growing inclination to take further steps if hiring doesn’t pick up.
But some economists say the job gains need to be greater.