Employers added 157,000 jobs last month, a modest gain, the Labor Department said Friday.
"The basic story of the labor market has been a slow and steady recovery of month after month of impressive jobs gains", said Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.
After two months of dependable United States jobs growth, the labor department reported a touch of lethargy in the sector on Friday, with nonfarm payroll jobs increasing to 157,000 in July - below the 190,000 anticipated in a survey of Reuters economists.
The jobs figures follow second quarter data last week showing the USA economy grew at an annualised rate of 4.1%.
The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.9 percent from 4 percent.
Among the unemployed, the number of people looking for work after losing or quitting their jobs fell by almost 290,000 to 1.8 million. The White House has slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum and on $34 billion of imports from China, and several companies have hit USA imports with retaliatory duties. That was an improvement over a 4-cent gain in June. Economists were watching manufacturing closely for signs of a drag from the Trump administration's escalation of trade tensions with China and allies.
U.S. employment has risen for 94 consecutive months, the longest jobs-expansion streak on record.
Manufacturing employment continued to rise briskly, by 37,000 in July, in line with business optimism in the sector and on track to far outpace last year's 207,000 gain. The solid rate of hiring reflects strong production, business confidence, and plans for expansion.
During the same period, inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index rose slightly more - 2.8 percent.
"Price hikes tied to tariffs are likely to exacerbate that dynamic in the third quarter, which will leave the Federal Reserve raising rates without the wage gains that usually accompany inflation", she said.
"If this was a prez [presidential election] year, these strong jobs reports would matter so much more for the elections", CNN election analyst Harry Enten said Friday on Twitter.
Professional/business services gained 51,000 jobs, with temporary help services adding 28,000 jobs and computer systems design 8,000 jobs, according to the BLS. Retail payrolls rebounded by 7,100 jobs last month after losing 20,200 in June.
Yet the trade fights didn't appear to impact hiring last month.
Government employment fell by 13,000 jobs in July. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments.