* June nonfarm payrolls up by 222,000 vs. est. 179,000
* Unemployment rate edges up to 4.4 pct from 4.3 pct in May
* Average hourly earnings rise 0.2 pct vs est 0.3 pct
* Indexes up: Dow 0.46 pct, S&P 0.65 pct, Nasdaq 1.07 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Tanya Agrawal
July 7 (Reuters) - Wall Street extended gains in early afternoon trading on Friday, powered by robust jobs data and a rebound in technology stocks.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 222,000 jobs last month, data from the Labor Department showed, beating economists’ expectations for a 179,000 gain.
Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent in June after gaining 0.1 percent in May, but fell below the estimated 0.3 percent.
While the unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent from a 16-year low of 4.3 percent, that was because more people were looking for work, a sign of confidence in the labor market.
“We’re looking at now four of first six months of the year with 200,000 jobs or more and this is a nice solid report, so we can look forward to earnings season coming up,” said Ryan Detrick, Senior Market Strategist for LPL Financial.
“The one potential slight concern was the average wages didn’t raise quite so much as some of those early estimates. But that falls in with some of the inflation data we’ve been seeing.”
Investors are focused on wage growth and whether spending by consumers will be strong enough to back the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise interest rates once more this year.
Odds of a rate hike at the Fed’s December meeting stood at 50.9 percent, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.
Policymakers have taken opposing views on inflation after it retreated further below the central bank’s 2 percent target in May, creating uncertainty over the future path of rate hikes.
Adding to the jitters are bets that the world’s major central banks are moving closer to unwinding their ultra-loose monetary policies.
At 12:39 p.m. ET (1639 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 97.44 points, or 0.46 percent, at 21,417.48, the S&P 500 was up 15.76 points, or 0.65 percent, at 2,425.51.
The Nasdaq Composite was up 65.35 points, or 1.07 percent, at 6,154.81.
Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the tech index’s 1.3 percent rise leading the gainers.
Apple, Microsoft and Facebook gave the biggest boost to the S&P and the Nasdaq.
The financial index, which is sensitive to interest rates, rose 0.69 percent.
Shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan and Citigroup were trading higher.
Oil fell more than 3 percent after data showed U.S. production rose last week just as OPEC exports hit a 2017 high. Oil prices are down more than 16 percent this year, adding to low inflation concerns.
Tesla rose 1.9 percent after the luxury electric carmaker said about 3,500 vehicles were in transit to customers at the end of the second quarter and they would be counted as deliveries in the third quarter.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,936 to 909. On the Nasdaq, 1,970 issues rose and 802 fell. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Arun Koyyur)