July jobs report: U.S. economy adds 162,000 new jobs

The U.S. economy added a disappointing 162,000 new jobs in July, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Labor. However, the official unemployment rate fell to 7.4%. It was 7.6% the previous month.

The government also revised downward, by a combined 26,000, the job gains originally reported in May and June.

For July, economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast 183,000 new jobs, so the monthly preliminary numbers were lower than expected.

Private companies added 161,000 jobs in July, led by the manufacturing sector, which added 6,000 jobs. While governments overall added 1,000 jobs to their payrolls, the federal payroll dropped by 2,000.

Meanwhile, average wages fell by 2 cents in July, to $23.98 per hour.

Earlier in the week, the Commerce Department said the economy grew by 1.7% in the second quarter, according to preliminary data, after growing at a pace of 1.1% in the first quarter.

Taken together, the numbers show the nation’s modest economic growth is continuing, although economists continue to predict higher growth in the second half of 2013. Since July of 2012, the national unemployment rate has decreased from 8.2% to 7.4%, and the economy has added an average of 189,000 jobs per month. Economists say the economy must create at least 150,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with changes in population and the labor market, and it must create about 250,000 to quickly bring down the unemployment rate.

The July jobs report isn’t likely to result in a new course for the Federal Reserve Board. After creating some room for doubt, the Fed announced this week that it will leave in place its $85 billion per month bond-buying program.