Unemployment dips to 6.1 percent

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The economy added 288,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate declined to 6.1 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today — the lowest level since September 2008.

Job gains were “widespread,” led by employment growth in professional and business services, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and health care, the bureau said.

Job creation well outpaced projections that the economy would add 215,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dipped from 6.3 percent to 6.1 percent, its lowest level since the month Lehman Brothers collapse and the U.S. economy went into a tailspin, according to a Time report.

The rate of hiring also outpaced that of the first five months of 2014, another sign that job growth is rebounding, according to The New York Times. Nearly six years after the crash, some of the scars remain — such as a historically low rate of Americans in the work force. But the job market has been showing signs of health, even as the overall economic growth rate has been anemic.

Unemployment has come down from 7.9 percent at the start of 2013, and the average monthly gain in payrolls has been above 200,000 for the last consecutive five months.

The pace of hiring in recent months has been stronger despite a weak first quarter, when the economy shrank at an annual rate of 2.9 percent. Although the weakness was initially blamed on weather, as well as more technical factors such as inventory swings, the depth of the contraction caught some economists off guard, especially those who began the year with a more positive outlook.

Economic growth is thought to have picked up in the second quarter, which ended Monday, with experts estimating a growth rate of just over 3 percent in the period. The total number of people employers are estimated to have hired in May was revised upward by 7,000 to 224,000.

Today’s numbers were well above expectations, which had been moving higher in recent days. The average gain anticipated by Wall Street economists surveyed by Bloomberg before the release stood at 215,000 with unemployment remaining flat at 6.3 percent.