Solid Hiring Expected for June as U.S. Job Market Nears Normal

U.S. employers likely hired at another strong pace in June, a sign that the job market is nearing full health and giving the Federal Reserve reason to raise interest rates as early as September.

Economists predict that employers added 233,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent in May, according to data firm FactSet.

The June employment report will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time Thursday.

For the first five months of 2015, monthly job growth has averaged 217,000, a healthy streak that is steadily absorbing the unemployed as well as part-time workers looking for more hours.

The job gains are also showing tentative signs of finally forcing up wages, which have remained stagnant for many Americans during the 6-year-old economic recovery. Pay is now rising for some because employers have been forced to offer higher wages to attract qualified employees.

Those trends have raised economists' expectations that the Fed will soon raise the key short-term rate it controls in September or, if not, in December. The Fed has kept that rate at a record low near zero for 6½ years to support the economy. A Fed rate hike would lead to higher rates for mortgages, auto loans and other borrowing.

In May, many more Americans started seeking work. Even though employers added a robust 280,000 jobs in May, they weren't enough to fully absorb the influx of job seekers. As a result, the unemployment rate rose a notch to 5.5 percent.

Still, a surge in people looking for work is a healthy sign because it suggests rising optimism about job prospects. Assuming that most of the new job seekers eventually find work, the rise in employment levels should eventually accelerate consumer spending and economic growth.

Strong hiring has endured this year despite a miserable winter, which helped cause the economy...

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