Solid hiring in July cuts unemployment rate to 4.3 pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added 209,000 jobs in July, a second straight month of robust gains that underscore the economy’s vitality as it enters a ninth year of expansion.

The unemployment rate slipped to 4.3 percent from 4.4 percent, matching a 16-year low first reached in May, the Labor Department said Friday.

But growth in Americans’ paychecks — a persistent weak spot since the recovery began in June 2009 — remains stubbornly slow. Average hourly pay rose by 2.5 percent from a year earlier, the same tepid annual pace as in June. That’s below the 3.5 percent to 4 percent that is typical when the unemployment rate is this low.

Still, the hiring data points to a healthy economy despite some mixed signals in recent weeks. Employers appear to be optimistic about their businesses and future consumer demand. The solid job gains may also fuel greater consumer spending, which would bolster economic growth.

“The July jobs report is solid from top to bottom — with the caveat that wage growth, while stronger than expected, remains subdued,” Andrew Hollenhorst, an economist at Citi.

President Donald Trump celebrated the report in a tweet shortly after the numbers were released. “Excellent Jobs Numbers,” he wrote, “and I have only just begun.”

Yet the pace of hiring so far this year is pretty much the same as it was last year under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Employers have added 184,000 jobs a month this year, compared with 187,000 in 2016. Monthly job gains topped 200,000 on average in 2014 and 2015.

Investors welcomed the news, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising 43 points in mid-day trading.