Washington: US job growth surged in July, as the economy added a surprising 528,000 positions, defying all expectations of a slowdown, according to official data Friday.

Even the White House had agreed with most economists in predicting the increase would slow to just 250,000 in the month, which President Joe Biden said was part of the natural slowdown after the rapid rebound of the world's largest economy from the pandemic downturn.

Meanwhile, wages jumped -- with average hourly earnings up 15 cents over June -- which will surely add to inflation concerns, as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates aggressively to cool the economy amid the highest price gains in more than 40 years.

The widespread job gains helped lower the unemployment rate back to the pre-pandemic low of 3.5 percent, the Labor Department reported. And the outsized job gain in June was revised higher.

Total non-farm employment also recovered to its pre-pandemic level, the data showed.

Hiring was robust in leisure and hospitality and health care, which each added 96,000 or more, while manufacturing and construction gained 32,000 or more.

Builders have struggled for months to find workers to meet high demand for construction, but employment in the sector is now back to its pre-pandemic level, the report said.