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July jobs should show steady hiring after crazy May and June reports

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Stocks in narrow trading range ahead of jobs report

Economists expect a solid 180,000 jobs were created in July and that wages rose modestly, following two months this spring where it looked as though hiring went from bust to boom.

The forecast is close to the average 172,000 job growth of the past six months, but under the 200,000 rate of the past year. June nonfarm payrolls were 287,000 following a stunningly low May report of just 11,000 jobs. Some of that was blamed on the 40,000 striking Verizon workers during May and their return to work in June.

"I think the underlying pace is pretty close to what we've seen so far this year. We're looking a little better this month," said Samuel Coffin, an economist at UBS.