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The Baltimore Sun

6th month in row of solid jobs gains

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sixth straight month of solid 200,000-plus job growth in July reinforced growing evidence that the U.S. economy is accelerating after five years of sluggish expansion.

Employers added 209,000 jobs last month. Though that was fewer than in the previous three months, the economy has now produced an average 244,000 jobs a month since February — the best six-month string in eight years.

At the same time, most economists don't think the pace of job growth is enough to cause the Federal Reserve to speed up its timetable for raising interest rates. Most still think the Fed will start raising rates to ward off inflation around mid-2015.

The Labor Department's jobs report Friday pointed to an economy that has bounced back with force after a grim start to the year and is expected to sustain its strength into 2015. Economists generally expect it to grow at a 3 percent annual rate in the second half of this year after expanding 4 percent in the second quarter. Consumer spending is rising, manufacturing is expanding rapidly and auto sales are up.

"There is no doubt that the economy and the labor market have been strengthening," said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University's Smith School of Business. "People are rejoining the labor force. All these factors point to moderate, but sustained economic growth in 2014."

Speaking with reporters Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama declared that the economy "is clearly getting stronger. ... Our engines are revving a little bit louder."

In an encouraging sign, more people without jobs have started to look for one — a shift that nudged up the unemployment rate in July to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent in June. Most of those who began searching last month didn't find jobs. But the increase suggests they're more optimistic about their prospects. The jobless aren't counted as unemployed unless they're actively seeking work.


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