U.S. job growth surges in July easing recession fears

STORY: The U.S. economy added a much bigger-than-expected 528,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since February, lifting the level of employment back to its level before the labor market was upended by a global health crisis.

The massive gain for July was more than double the 250,000 that economists polled by Reuters had forecast.

And the unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%, matching the half-century low that was last seen in February of 2020.

The blowout July jobs report was the strongest evidence yet that the economy was not in recession, potentially putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to continue its aggressive interest rate hikes. The stock market opened lower Friday morning, as investors believed the U.S. central bank would press ahead.

The Labor Department's employment report on Friday also showed employers continuing to raise wages at a strong clip and maintaining longer hours for workers.

The broad job gains last month were led by the leisure and hospitality industry, with most of the positions added at restaurants and bars. Still, leisure and hospitality employment remains down by more than a million jobs from its February 2020 level.

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