Early reaction is that this was a good but not great July. Yes, 163,000 jobs were added to the rolls, stronger than the 100,000 consensus estimate and a world away from the revised 64,000 figure for June. But the unemployment rate inched up to 8.3 percent (8.254 percent if you to be technical about it), while the number of people in the labor force actually ticked down. (When the jobless rate inches up despite an increase in jobs, it often means that more people entered the labor pool.) One interesting development: The number of people out of work for a year or more fell sharply. The markets clearly like what they see: The Dow is up more than 200 points after 30 minutes of trading. Here's the BLS release. From the NYT:
For context, the economy now produces as many goods and services -- more, in fact -- than it did before the downturn officially began in December 2007. But it does so with almost five million fewer jobs. And the pace at which the economy has been adding jobs in the last few months is just barely fast enough to absorb the growth in the labor force. As a result, the unemployment rate remained mostly unchanged, ticking up to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent.
Monthly payroll growth of about 100,000 is needed to keep the jobless rate stable, while growth of roughly 150,000 to 200,000 is needed to lower unemployment, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said at a news conference in April, citing a "very rough estimate." through June, the U.S. had recovered about 3.8 million of the 8.8 million jobs lost as a result of the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009.