U.S. economy gains a strong 222,000 jobs in June

Unemployment benefits (ThinkStock)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — America’s strong job market just got a little better.

The U.S. economy added 222,000 jobs in June, much more than economists were expecting, the Labor Department said Friday.

The unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.4%, hovering just above its lowest level since 2001. Shortly after the Great Recession ended in 2009, unemployment peaked at 10%.

June was the 81st consecutive month of job gains.

Wages grew 2.5% in June compared with a year ago. That’s slightly better than in prior years but well below the goal of 3.5% set by the Federal Reserve. Wages are one of the last indicators to really pick up momentum since the recession ended in 2009.