The U.S. said its labor market improved markedly in July, even as the national jobless rate edged higher.
The government reported Friday that employers added 163,000 jobs last month, after three straight months of sluggish hiring, and the most since February.
But even as more unemployed workers found new jobs, the country’s unemployment rate increased to 8.3 percent in July, up from the 8.2 percent figure recorded the previous two months. The U.S. jobless rate has now been above 8 percent for 42 straight months as the country has struggled to recover from its worst recession since the 1930s.
Even as businesses boosted hiring last month, nearly 13 million workers remain unemployed. The growth of the world’s largest economy slowed in the April-to-June period to an anemic 1.5 percent pace, down from a faster advance earlier in the year.
The state of the economy has become the biggest issue in the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Republican challenger Mitt Romney blaming the Democratic incumbent, President Barack Obama, for the slow pace of the recovery. Mr. Obama said Republican policies in effect before he took office in 2009 contributed greatly to the recession and the sluggish advance during his White House tenure.
Romney described July’s increased jobless rate as a “hammer blow” to middle-class families, and said America can do better.
Mr. Obama planned to talk about the report later Friday. White House economic adviser Alan Krueger said the improved labor market is “further evidence” that the U.S. economy is recovering.