The U.S. economy added 209,000 new jobs in July, according to the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number is slightly lower than the 233,000 jobs some analysts expected. Despite the increase, unemployment ticked up slightly to 6.2%.
The report also showed that the labor force participation rate—the percentage of the working-age population either employed or looking for a job—moving up only slightly to 62.9%, virtually unchanged since April. The number of long-term unemployed, who make up 32.9% of the total unemployed population, also changed little, moving from 3.1 million to 3.2 million.
The BLS revised upwards its May and June employment growth figures, reporting 15,000 more jobs were added in those months than previously reported.
Job growth is always a closely-watched indicator of economic performance, but investors will be paying especially close attention to today's numbers and what they might mean for interest rates. The Federal Reserve has shown increased confidence in the economy, and recently began phasing out its bond buying program known as quantitative easing.
While Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen announced on Thursday that the Fed still had no plans to increase interest rates, citing concerns with the housing market's slow recovery, many economists believe that strong GDP growth in the last quarter combined with persistent job growth may soon force the central bank's hand as it seeks to keep inflation from creeping over 2%. The beginnings of a return to pre-recession interest rates would be good sign for the economy as a whole, but some investors may stand to lose money if interests rates rise earlier than expected.