US economy added 288,000 jobs in June; Unemployment at 6.1%

Job seekers fill out applications before the start of the HireLive career fair on June 4, 2014 in San Francisco, Calif.
Job seekers fill out applications before the start of the HireLive career fair on June 4, 2014 in San Francisco, Calif.

The U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in June, and the unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent, signaling that the anemic recovery is finally picking up steam. 

The unemployment rate, which was 6.3% in May, is now at the lowest level since September 2008, when the economy began to enter the worst of the financial crisis. 

Long-term unemployment declined in June by 293,000 last month, though it’s still at more than twice the level than before the recession, with 3.1 million Americans looking for work for more than six months.

President Obama said Thursday at a startup in Washington, D.C. that the jobs report shows the "economy has built momentum, that we are making progress."

"We've now seen almost 10 million jobs created over the course of the last 52 months," the president continued. "And it should be a useful reminder to people all across the country that given where we started back in 2008, we have made enormous strides, thanks to the incredible hard work of the American people and American businesses that have been out there competing, getting smarter, getting more effective.  And it's making a difference all across the country."

Analysts have been expecting the economy to bounce back after an unusually cold winter had depressed growth. But June’s jobs numbers were even stronger than the consensus estimate, which pegged job growth at 215,000. 

"The June unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent for the right reason," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist, and Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group, pointing to the overall rise in new entrants to the labor force in the first six months of 2014. "The solid rise in the number of job seekers thus far this year is a sign of growing confidence in the economy on the part of employers and would-be employees."

The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised April and May’s job numbers upward, stating that there were 29,000 more jobs than had initially been reported. 

The monthly jobs report typically is released on the first Friday of the month, but it came a day early this month due to the Fourth of July holiday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the jobs report "very good news," but added that Congress still needed to do more to help the economy. "[W]hile it is encouraging that our economy continues to strengthen, there are still too many middle class Nevadans and Americans struggling to make ends meet," Reid said in a statement.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Bush's former Congressional Budget Office director, was also heartened by the numbers. "This is good economic news – consistent with other data indicators for June," he says. "The remaining hurdle is to have the economy as a whole shift to rapid growth and thereby close the yawning gap between what is happening and the potential for the economy."