WASHINGTON - US employers added 209 000 jobs in July, a second straight month of robust gains that underscore the economy's vitality as it enters a ninth year of expansion.
The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate slipped to 4.3%, matching a 16-year low first reached in May.
Growth in Americans' paychecks, however, remains stubbornly slow. Average hourly pay rose by 2.5% from a year earlier, the same tepid annual pace as in June. That's below the 3.5% to 4 percent that is typical when the unemployment rate is this low.
Still, the hiring data points to a healthy economy despite some mixed signals in recent weeks. Employers remain optimistic about their businesses and future consumer demand. The solid job gains may also fuel greater consumer spending, which would bolster economic growth.
The solid job market is also reflected in recent corporate moves. Amazon held a nationwide "hiring day" on Wednesday in an effort to fill 50,000 jobs. And President Donald Trump has highlighted announcements by Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn and carmakers Toyota and Mazda to open plants in the US.
Overall, hiring this year has averaged 184,000 a month, roughly in line with 2016's average of 187,000.
Americans are buying homes at a healthy pace, but car sales have fallen off. Factory production is expanding modestly, but a report on Thursday pointed to slower growth among services firms, such as retailers, banks and construction firms.
Consumers also turned cautious in June and barely raised their spending compared with May.
The economy expanded at a healthy 2.6% annual pace in the April-June quarter, up from an anemic 1.2% in the first three months of the year. Still, that leaves the growth at about 2% in the first half of the year, the same modest pace of growth the US has experienced since the Great Recession.