WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added 162,000 jobs in July, a modest increase and the fewest since March. The gain was still enough to help lower the unemployment rate to a 4 1/2-year low of 7.4 percent, a hopeful sign in an otherwise lackluster report.
The Labor Department said today that unemployment declined from 7.6 percent in June as more Americans found jobs and others stopped looking and were no longer counted as unemployed.
Still, the government said employers created a combined 26,000 fewer jobs in May and June than previously estimated. Americans worked fewer hours in July, and their average pay dipped. The figures suggest that weak economic growth might be making businesses cautious about hiring.
For the year, job growth remains solid. The economy has created an average 200,000 jobs a month since January. But the pace has slowed in the past three months to 175,000.