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US job gains in July fell slightly short of expectations

U.S. job gains in July fell slightly short of expectations, according to Labor Department numbers released Friday.

U.S. job gains in July fell slightly short of expectations, as unemployment did not budge from the previous month, according to Labor Department numbers released Friday. 

American companies added 215,000 jobs for the month, while the unemployment rate stayed unchanged from June at 5.3%. The labor force participation rate remained flat at 62.6.

Economists polled by Reuters expected job gains of 223,000 in July, with the unemployment rate at 5.3%.

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A broader measure that includes those who have stopped looking for work or working part-time for economic reasons slipped to 10.4% from 10.5% in the previous month.

The Fed has scrutinized job market data as it determines when to raise the federal funds rate for the first time in nine years. After its most recent meeting late last month, the central bank's policy committee said the labor market "continued to improve" while posting "solid" job gains. 

Retail trade and health care helped push job gains in July. Employment in retail trade rose by 36,000 in July, while the health care industry added 28,000 positions.

Manufacturing employment climbed by 15,000 and motor vehicle parts and dealers jobs rose by 13,000.

A mixed bag of separate labor market metrics surfaced before Friday's Labor Department report. American companies added a lower-than-expected 185,000 jobs in July, according to the ADP private payrolls report this week. 

The employment cost index—the broadest measure of labor costs—rose 0.2 percent in the second quarter, the Labor Department said last week. That marked the smallest increase in 33 years and fell short of a consensus 0.6 percent increase, according to economists polled by Reuters.

However, the Labor Department said new applications for state unemployment benefits totaled 270,000 in the week ended August 1, rising less than expected. Jobless claims have stayed below 300,000—a level that signals a strengthening labor market—for 22 straight weeks.

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