215,000 jobs were added to the U.S. workforce in July while unemployment reached a seven-year low of 5.3 percent.
Last month’s payroll gains followed a strong June in which 231,000 jobs were added according to a Labor Department report.
The report also revealed an increase in hours worked, although the average hourly earnings climbed a less-than-forecast 2.1 percent from a year earlier. The report revealed that time worked per week rose by 6 minutes to 34.6 hours
“The Fed is close to tightening — it doesn’t need to see a lot more improvement, just a little more,” Dana Saporta, an economist at Credit Suisse Securities USA LLC in New York, said before the report. “Data that shows continued diminishing of slack in the labor market is sufficient” for policy makers to raise interest rates before the end of 2015.
Retailers led job creation in July with 36,000 new workers, followed by healthcare, leisure, and hospitality. Manufacturing also experienced its largest payroll increase in six months. Factories boosted payrolls by 15,000, the most since January.
Bloomberg’s forecast called for 225,000 jobs while 96 economists estimated between 140,000 and 310,000 jobs would be created.
Revisions to prior reports added 14,000 jobs to overall payrolls in the previous two months.
Employee pay rose 0.2 percent to $24.99.