Though the 162,000 jobs added in July did not meet economists' expectations, U.S. unemployment fell to 7.4%, its lowest since December 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The number of unemployed persons (11.5 million) also declined in July, and though the drop in unemployment was due in part to more people dropping out of the labor force, much of it was due to workers finding jobs. The civilian participation rate fell by a slight margin to 63.4%.
The long-term unemployed (27 weeks or longer) barely budged at 4.2 million, making up 37% of all unemployed persons but having experienced a year-long decline of about 921,000.
The jobs figure was below the monthly 2013 average of 192,000. Most sectors posted gains, with the largest hiring increases occurring in the retail (47,000), food and drink industries (38,000) and professional and business services (36,000). Building material and garden supply stores added 6,000 jobs.
Additionally, June's figures of 195,000 was revised down to 188,000, while May's numbers were corrected to 176,000 from 195,000.