Friday's jobs report didn't show the continued acceleration many analysts hope for, but it did contain signs that the U.S. labor market recovery may finally be solidifying.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the economy added 209,000 payroll jobs in July.

That was fewer than the roughly 230,000 that were expected, but it marked the sixth month in a row in which the country added more than 200,000 jobs, a streak that hasn’t been reached since 1997.

The unemployment rate ticked up from 6.1 percent to 6.2 percent, but that movement also reflected underlying improvement in the labor market. The labor force participation rate edged up from 62.8 percent to 62.9 percent, meaning that unemployment rose in the month because workers took up the job hunt, and not because they lost jobs.

After steadily falling from 66 percent at the start of the recession to its lowest levels since the late 1970s, the labor force participation rate has leveled out in recent months. It's now slightly higher than it was in October.

In the past three months, payrolls have grown by an average of about 250,000, well above the roughly 180,000 average that held through the beginning of 2014.

So far, 2014 has been by far the strongest month for job gains since the 2008 financial crisis, with a monthly job creation pace of about 230,000.


Other aspects of the jobs report were not encouraging. The number of Americans out of work for 27 weeks or longer increased, from 3.08 to 3.16 million. The long-term unemployed make up roughly one-third of total unemployment, a historically high share. Over the past year, the number of long-term jobless has fallen by more than a million.

A broader measure of underemployment calculated by the BLS, the U-6 unemployment rate that takes into consideration those forced into part-time work and people only marginally attached to the labor force, rose slightly, from 12.1 to 12.2 percent. That indicator also has improved significantly over the past year, falling by 1.7 percentage points.

Nevertheless, the survey of establishments showed that job gains were relatively broad-based across industries, including ones that are generally high-paying. In particular, both the manufacturing and construction industries showed strong gains, at 28,000 and 22,000, respectively.