Declining government employment has been a drag on the job market since the recession officially ended in June 2009. In a typical recovery, governments add at least 20,000 jobs a month.
Solid hiring in the private sector is lifting wages, even in some lower-paying industries. Average hourly pay for retail employees, for example, rose 6 cents in June to $16.64, and is up nearly 2 percent in the past year.
The overall increase in pay is "the standout feature of this report," said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody's Analytics. Low inflation rate is also helping consumers, he noted.
"The tide is continuing to turn for the consumer," Sweet said. "The consumer is going to continue to be able to shoulder this recovery."June's 7.6 percent unemployment rate is derived from a survey of households, which found that 177,000 more people started looking for jobs last month. Most found them. The rise in job seekers suggests that Americans think their prospects have brightened. Because some job seekers didn't find work right away, the number of unemployed was largely unchanged at 11.8 million. The job gain for the month is calculated from a separate survey of employers. The percentage of Americans either working or actively looking for work rose for a second straight month to 63.5 percent. This is called the "labor force participation rate." The participation rate has been generally declining since peaking at 67.3 percent in 2000. That's partly the result of baby boomers retiring and leaving the workforce. ___ AP Business Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report. ___ Follow Chris Rugaber on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber