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US employers hire 215,000 in July; unemployment holds at 5.3 per cent as Fed weighs rate hike

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added a solid 215,000 jobs in July, signalling a steadily rising job market and providing a key piece of evidence for the Federal Reserve in deciding whether the economy can withstand higher interest rates as soon as September.

The Labor Department also says the unemployment rate held at a relatively low 5.3 per cent for a second straight month.

Monthly job growth has averaged 211,286 so far this year, indicating that employers are confident that the six-year recovery from the Great Recession can sustain strong consumer demand and require more workers.

Hiring has remained robust even though the economy's overall growth rate has been subpar and pay raises have been modest for many workers. Average hourly earnings in July increased just 2.1 per cent from a year earlier.

Josh Boak, The Associated Press

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