U.S. employers added 162,000 jobs in July, the fewest since March. But the gains were enough to lower the unemployment rate to a 4 ½ -year low of 7.4 percent.
The Labor Department says the rate fell from 7.6 percent in June. But that was one of the few good signs in an otherwise lackluster report.
Fewer jobs were added in the previous two months than earlier estimated. Americans worked fewer hours and their pay dipped. The figures suggest weak economic growth may be making businesses cautious about hiring.
The Federal Reserve will pay particularly close attention to the figures as it decides whether to scale back its $85 billion monthly bond purchases later this year.