U.S. job growth slows, but jobless rate retreats

The pace of job growth in the United States has slowed even as the unemployment rate has edged down.

According to Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls grew 162,000 in July, the smallest gain in four months. Moreover, initial estimates for jobs gains in June and May were revised downward a total of 26,000.

Counting the latest numbers, job growth over the last three months has come in below the average monthly gain of 189,000 net new jobs over the past year.

The jobless rate slipped two-tenths of a point to 7.4 percent in July after holding at 7.6 percent for two months.

For July, payroll gains were spread out among a number of industry sectors.

Employment in retail trades increased 47,000, the most in eight months.

Employment in food service and drinking places increased 38,000, while professional and business services added 36,000 net new jobs. The financial activities sector added 15,000 jobs. Employment in wholesale trades rose 14,000.

Employment held steady in the health care, construction and manufacturing sectors.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls, slipped a tenth of an hour to 34.4 hours in July. At 40.6 hours, the manufacturing workweek was shorter by two-tenths of hour.

Average hourly earnings on private, nonfarm payrolls edged down 2 cents to $23.98. Over the past year, however, hourly wages have increased 44 cents, or 1.9 percent.