Paul Davidson, USA TODAY
The labor market continued to gain momentum and defy a mixed economy in June as employers added 288,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.1% vs. 6.3% in May.
Economists had estimated that 215,000 jobs were added last month.
The economy has now gained 200,000 jobs a month for the past five months -- the first such stretch since September 1999-January 2000.
Several economists expected continued strong employment advances after private payroll processor ADP released its own survey Wednesday that showed businesses added 281,000 jobs in June – the most since November 2012.
Also, initial jobless claims have fallen to prerecession levels and surveys of service-sector employment are indicating a pickup in hiring. Outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas said Thursday that announced job cuts fell to 31,434 in June from 52,961 in May and are down 5% so far this year,
Goldman Sachs had cautioned that the labor market might have taken a breather in June after four months of 200,000-plus gains, noting that a bounce-back in hiring after the harsh winter weather may be losing steam.
The surprisingly resilient job market has contrasted with an economy that contracted 2.9% in the first quarter — its worst performance in five years — and weak consumer spending recently.