Unemployment falls to lowest level in 7 years

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NEW YORK — The weather is warming up in America and so is the economy.

U.S. unemployment fell to 5.3%, its lowest level since the financial crisis, according to the latest government data released Thursday. It was an even healthier rate than many economists predicted.

Hiring remains healthy: the U.S. added 223,000 jobs in June. Thursday’s news was slightly below the prediction from CNNMoney’s survey of economists, which predicted there would be 235,000 jobs added.

There’s just one complaint for many: Where’s the wage growth? Average hourly earnings rose only 2% annually in June — still far below the goal for a healthy economy of 3.5% or more.

There’s hope that wages will rise since unemployment has been so low for several months now, but that pick up has yet to happen.

June’s job strength is the beginning of an important summer for the economy. The U.S. is the growth engine for the world this year as many other nations slow down. Furthermore, after years of waiting, the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates in September for the first time since 2006. A rate hike would be a healthy sign that the economy is almost fully recovered from the Great Recession.

The catch: the economy needs to perform well between now and September. So far it’s off to a good start.

By Patrick Gillespie