(CNN Business) – The US economy has just regained all the jobs it lost during the pandemic, after adding 528,000 jobs in July, according to the report published Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
According to Refinitiv, the massive monthly gains were more than double the 250,000 jobs economists had expected.
The unemployment rate fell to 3.5% after hovering at 3.6% for the past four months. In addition, this July index reaches its half-century minimum that was last recorded in February 2020.
The July results mark the 19th consecutive month of job growth in the US, which is also the highest number since the economy added 714,000 jobs in February. BLS data shows that job totals for July exceed the average monthly gain of 388,000 for the past four months.
Job gains were widely spread across all sectors, although leisure and hospitality had some of the biggest gains. However, jobs in this key service sector are still more than 1 million below the pre-pandemic level, according to the BLS.
The labor force participation rate fell to 62.1% from 62.2% in June. Average hourly earnings were up 0.5% from the previous month and up 5.2% from a year ago.
Economists’ expectations about jobs in the United States
Economists had expected the labor market to show some slowdown, as it not only came close to regaining the more than 20 million jobs lost in the pandemic, but also reflects a broader slowdown in economic activity.
Prior to Friday’s report, which also included upward revisions to a total of 28,000 jobs over the past two months, the country was short of about 524,000 jobs to reach pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.
In one giant blow, that gap was erased.
“Despite the fact that GDP contracted for two consecutive quarters in the first half of the year, these strong labor market numbers provide a strong case against talk of a recession,” Mark Hamrick, chief economist at Bankrate, said in a statement.
He added that this report, when analyzed with the latest data showing that job vacancies still far outnumber job seekers, could pressure the Federal Reserve to continue its string of aggressive rate hikes.
“How [el presidente de la Fed] Jerome Powell and colleagues continue to assess that the labor market is improving, and that is still on the ledger side forcing them to keep raising rates.”