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Employers add jobs in July, signaling strong labor market

By Jim Puzzanghera Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – Private employers added a solid 179,000 net jobs last month, payroll processing firm Automatic Data Processing said Wednesday in an indication that the labor market has regained its health after stumbling badly in May.

The July job growth follows an upwardly revised 176,000 net new private sector positions added the previous month. The new figures were in line with analyst expectations.

“Job growth remains strong, but is moderating as the economy approaches full employment,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, which assists ADP in preparing the report.

“Businesses are having a more difficult time filling open job positions, which are near record highs,” he said. “The nation’s biggest economic problem will soon be the lack of available workers.”

Manufacturers increased their payrolls by 4,000 workers in July, the first monthly gain since January, ADP said.

But construction companies shed 6,000 positions in July, the second straight month of job cuts in that sector.

The ADP data were consistent with forecasts that the Labor Department will report Friday that the U.S. added 185,000 net jobs in the private and public sectors last month.

The unemployment rate is forecast to tick down to 4.8 percent, near the nine-year low.

But the ADP and Labor Department data, which come from different sources, can be sharply at odds.

In May, ADP said the private sector added 181,000 net jobs while the Labor Department reported overall job growth of just 11,000.

That surprising stumble in the jobs market – the worst monthly Labor Department report in more than five years – triggered concerns of a sharp hiring slowdown.

The labor market bounced back strongly in June, adding 287,000 net jobs.

That led Federal Reserve policymakers last month to say the labor market had strengthened. But central bank officials probably would need to see at least a couple more months of solid job growth before they would feel comfortable raising their benchmark short-term interest rate.

The Fed also must weigh the weakness in the overall economy, which expanded at an annual rate of just 1.2 percent in the second quarter.

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