The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the economy added 195,000 jobs last month, edging out analyst expectations. The unemployment rate remained at 7.6 percent, the same as the previous month. Hiring in the retail and tourism sectors was up, while health care employment lagged and the government shed jobs.
The economy has added an average 202,000 jobs a month for the past six months, up from 180,000 in the previous six. If growth accelerates and unemployment falls, the Federal Reserve is likely to slow its bond purchases before year's end. Bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates low. A pullback in the bond buying would likely send rates up.
"This clears the hurdle for the low bar [the Federal Reserve] has set for easing back on their stimulus," says Julia Coronado, chief North America economist at BNP Paribas. "They've hinted that September is about the time they would like to start pulling back and this gives them the green light to do so."
To hear more about the current job market, click on the audio player above.
Audio Extra: Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, discusses the latest jobs numbers, part-time employment, and the Federal Reserve.
Audio Extra: Seth Harris, acting U.S. Secretary of Labor, shares his take on the latest U.S. employment data.
The AP contributed to this report.