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Solid US Job Gains Could Bolster 2nd-half Growth

U.S. automakers are reporting their best sales since the recession, a sign that Americans are confident enough in their finances to make large purchases. Car sales rose 14 percent in July from 12 months earlier to 1.3 million.

Healthy sales have encouraged more hiring by Ford Motor Co. The company said last week that it will hire 800 salaried professionals this year, mostly in areas such as information technology, product development and quality control.

The steady job growth this year has been supported by the comeback in the housing industry. Home prices and sales have been improving. In June, Americans bought new homes at the fastest pace in five years, a trend that could spur more construction and generate higher-paying jobs. So far this year, most of the added jobs have been in lower-paying areas, such as restaurants, bars and retail stores.

The strong job growth this year has begun to increase average pay after years of stagnation. Average hourly pay rose at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the April-June quarter, according to Joe Carson, an economist at Alliance Bernstein. That's likely one reason consumer confidence has risen in recent months.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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