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Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans are going back to work at a faster clip — and getting paid more to do so.

Driving the news: The U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 850,000 jobs in June. Average hourly earnings jumped 3.6% from a year ago, in a continuation of the trend seen over the past two months.

Why it matters: These numbers back up anecdotal evidence from employers across the country. Demand for workers is strong, forcing employers to raise the amount they're offering to be able to compete.

The leisure and hospitality sector added a stunning 343,000 jobs — more than a third of June's total job gains.

  • That's a big deal, because industry employers have been the most vocal about their inability to find workers.

America's wages have hit a new record high of $30.40 per hour, up from $29.35 a year ago and $28.51 pre-pandemic.

What they're saying: "It turns out that you can find workers, you just have to pay a better wage than in the past, because wages of low-wage workers are going up," economist Betsey Stevenson tweeted.

Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

But, but, but: The pickup in pay isn't helping pull workers off the sidelines yet.

  • The proportion of the population that's in the labor force — 61.6% — didn't budge. That number is well below its 63.3% pre-pandemic level.

The big picture: The still-elevated unemployment rate, along with the still-low total number of workers in the economy, indicates that the Fed has a long way yet to go before it reaches its full employment mandate.

  • The millions of potential workers still on the sidelines will also reassure economists that a tight labor market isn't likely to cause runaway inflation.

The bottom line: The job market is still 6.7 million jobs short of where it was before the pandemic hit.

Go deeper

States that ended COVID unemployment benefits see no boost in job growth

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

States that ended federal unemployment benefits earlier this summer saw August job growth at less than half the rate of states that retained the benefits, according to new data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why it matters: Leaders in the largely Republican-led states had insisted that the benefits were discouraging people from work, and ended the assistance program early ahead of its planned expiration on Sept. 6.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.

4 hours ago - World

Hong Kong holds first "patriots only" elections

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a news conference last Monday. Photo: Lui Siu Wai/Xinhua via Getty Images

Hong Kong's elections to choose the city's Election Committee members opened to a select group of voters on Sunday, under a new "patriots only" system imposed by China's government.

Why it matters: All candidates running to be members of the electoral college have been "vetted" by Beijing, per Reuters. They will go on to choose the Asian financial hub's next leader, approved by China's government, and some of its legislature.