Washington: The US economy continued to create jobs in July but at a slower pace, while the tighter labour markets drove the unemployment rate back to near-record lows, the government reported on Friday.

Employers added 157,000 net new positions, with slower gains in auto manufacturing, transportation and mining, while the jobless rate fell a tenth to 3.9 per cent, according to the closely-watched monthly Labour Department report.

Economists had been expecting a far-stronger result of 190,000 new hires, but the July number looked smaller after strong upward revisions to gains in May and June.

Job gains were seen in the durable goods manufacturing and health care sectors as well as in restaurants and bars, but fell markedly at hobby, toy and game stores, part of the long-suffering retail sector.

A collective upward revision of 59,000 for May and June brought the three-month average for job creation to 224,000, faster than the average seen in 2017.

Wages meanwhile rose 0.3 per cent for the month to an average of $27.05 an hour, putting them up 2.7 per cent higher than July of last year — still below 2.8 per cent annual inflation rate.

Another month of sluggish wage gains could help cool fears the economy could be overheating but are unlikely to dissuade the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates next month for the third time this year.

Still, with unemployment at historically low levels and after a decade of steady job creation, employers across the United States complain of a widespread shortage of qualified labour and say they are struggling to fill open positions and being forced to offer higher compensation to attract and retain talent.

The July decline in the unemployment rate lowered the jobless population by 284,000 to 6.3 million — with gains concentrated among adult men. The unemployment rate had ticked up in June as the healthy jobs market attracted more workers back into the labor force.