The Washington area added more jobs in the year ended in July than it has in any 12-month period in more than four years, according to recently released Labor Department data.

The region generated 74,500 new jobs in the 12 months ended in July, compared with 65,100 in the year ended in June. The July-ending number represented the strongest job growth since the year that ended in February 2001.

The monthly job data are volatile, and it is dangerous to read too much into one month's number, which could be revised in the months ahead. Still, the July number hints that hiring accelerated over the summer.

Part of the improvement comes from the retail sector, which added 7,100 positions in the year ended in July, compared with 5,900 in the year ended in June. Another area of job growth was health care, which added 4,600 jobs in the year ended in July, compared with 3,600 in the year ended in June.

This being the Washington area, it is no shock that the biggest improvement was in the government sector, which added 10,700 jobs in the year ended in July, up from 6,400 in the year ended in June.

-- Neil Irwin