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Strong jobs report: Hiring up, unemployment down

(Photo: MGN Online)

(Photo: MGN Online)

WASHINGTON — The American jobs recovery seems to have finally hit its stride.

The U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday.

That number beats economists’ expectations and comes along with other good news: Job growth was revised higher for both May and April.

Taken altogether, that means employers added 1.4 million jobs in the first six months of the year.

That’s the strongest six months for job growth since 2006.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is now 6.1 percent, down from 6.3 percent in May. The drop came for the right reasons: More Americans said they had jobs, plus more people joined the labor force.

Another encouraging sign: pay is on the rise. Hourly wages ticked up 0.2 percent in June and are up 2 percent in the past 12 months.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said she wants to see wages rising faster than inflation. If average Americans see their buying power rise, that could boost consumer spending — the single biggest driver of the U.S. economy.

Over the past year, 2.3 million Americans have found jobs. Unemployment is down for many ages and races, although the nation’s youngest workers are still struggling this summer.

One in 10 workers between the ages 20 to 24 were unemployed while 1 in 5 workers between the ages 16 to 19 did not have a job.

In contrast, the unemployment rate is only 5.1 percent for workers between the ages 25 to 54, and even lower for workers over age 55, at 4.4 percent.

Education is still the key for many job seekers. Among workers with bachelor’s degrees, only 3.3 percent are unemployed.

Investors welcomed Thursday’s jobs report, sending the Dow over 17,000 for the first time ever. The bond market also reacted strongly. Yields on the benchmark 10 Year Treasury rose after the report came out, another sign that the market thinks the economy is improving.