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The job market made solid improvement last month, sending signals to markets that the Federal Reserve is on track to start pulling back on its stimulus program.
The economy added 195,000 new jobs in June, beating economists' expectations of 155,000 jobs and matching the revised pace from May. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.6%.
Spring hiring was also stronger than previously thought. The number of jobs created in April was revised up by 50,000 positions, while May was revised higher by 20,000 jobs.
The report was being watched particularly closely by investors, in light of recent comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that caused wild swings in the markets.
Prior to Friday, the S&P 500 was down nearly 3% since May 22, when clues first emerged that the Fed may slow purchases of bonds and mortgages as early as this year. Bernanke later said the stimulus program could end altogether if unemployment hits 7% -- which the Fed expects by the middle of next year.
Despite no change in the unemployment rate, the underlying strength of the report led investors to believe that the bedrock of the economy is improving, and that the Fed will start to pull back sooner rather than later.
On average, the economy has created roughly 182,000 jobs a month over the last year. That's not bad, but it's not great either. Economists say that level of job growth barely keeps pace with the rising population, and is a far cry from the 250,000 jobs a month created during the boom times of the mid 1990s.