According to federal data released Friday, the federal unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in July, tying January and February 2020 for the lowest mark in recent decades.
Overall, the US job market remained strong despite inflation and recession concerns. The economy added 528,000 new jobs during the month as the Bureau of Labor Statistics called the national job growth “robust.”
The US unemployment rate has not dropped below 3.5% since 1969.
Job growth was led by gains in the leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and health care industries. The leisure and hospitality industry added 96,000 jobs in July, but has 1.2 million fewer employees than before the pandemic.
Federal figures indicate that the unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, workforce participation continues to be a factor as for the second time in history, there are 100 million Americans not in the labor force. The only other time so many Americans were not in the labor force was April 2020 during the onset of the pandemic.
Average hourly wages increased by 15 cents in July to $32.27. In the last year, average hourly wages have increased by $1.60, or 5.2%. However, inflation was up 9.1 for the 12 months ending in June, indicating wages have failed to keep up with higher prices.
President Joe Biden celebrated the release of Friday's report.
"Today, the unemployment rate matches the lowest it’s been in more than 50 years: 3.5%. More people are working than at any point in American history." Biden said. "That’s millions of families with the dignity and peace of mind that a paycheck provides. And, it’s the result of my economic plan to build the economy from the bottom up and middle out."