(CNN Business) — The US economy has regained all the jobs lost during the pandemic after adding 528,000 jobs in July, according to a report released this Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The huge monthly gain was more than double economists’ forecast of 250,000 jobs, according to Refinitiv.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.5% after hovering at 3.6% for the past four months. Also, this July the index reached a half-century low which was last recorded in February 2020.

July’s results marked the 19th consecutive month of job gains in the US. It was also the highest number since the economy added 714,000 jobs in February. And the total number of jobs in July exceeded the average monthly gain of the previous four months by 388,000, BLS data showed.

Job gains were widespread across all sectors, although leisure and hospitality had the largest gains. However, jobs in that key service sector are still more than 1 million jobs below their pre-pandemic level, according to the BLS.

The labor force participation rate fell to 62.1% from 62.2% in June. Average hourly earnings rose 0.5% from the previous month and rose 5.2% from a year ago.

Economists’ Outlook on US Jobs

Economists had expected the labor market to show some slowdown, as it not only came close to recovering more than 20 million jobs lost to the pandemic, but also reflected a broader slowdown in economic activity.

Before Friday’s report, which also included upward revisions to a total of 28,000 jobs over the past two months, the country was about 524,000 jobs short of reaching pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.

With a huge shock, the void was erased.

“Despite two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction in the first half of the year, these strong labor market numbers make a strong case against talk of a recession,” Bankrate chief economic analyst Mark Hamrick said in a statement.

That report, when analyzed with recent data showing that job openings still outnumber job seekers, could put pressure on the Federal Reserve to continue a series of aggressive rate hikes, he added.

“What [el presidente de la Fed] Jerome Powell and his colleagues continue to assess that the labor market has picked up, which is on the ledger side, forcing them to continue raising interest rates,” he said.

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