U.S. companies stepped up hiring last month, a private survey showed Wednesday. And the government says fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week.
The latest data point to steady job growth, an encouraging sign ahead of Friday’s government report on June employment. The brighter hiring outlook also helped stocks end the day higher. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 56 points.
Further job gains could lower the unemployment rate, which is still high at 7.6 percent, and help economic growth rebound in the second half of the year. If growth accelerated and unemployment fell, the Federal Reserve might start to scale back its bond purchases before the year ends.
“The labor market remains one of the healthiest parts of the economy right now,” Ethan Harris, global economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said.
Economists forecast that the June jobs report will show employers added 165,000 jobs. The unemployment rate is expected to remain 7.6 percent. That’s down from 8.2 percent a year ago.