The department that deals with US unemployment fuelled fears that the country's job market recovery could have stalled when it said the economy added only 113,000 new jobs in January.
Economists had been expecting around 180,000 new jobs, and this was the second month of disappointing jobs news from the department, which last month surprised economists by saying that the US had added just 74,000 jobs in December, well below the 200,000 some had expected. That has been revised up to 75,000. Last year the economy added an average of 194,000 jobs per month.
Official figures show the number of unemployed was little changed in January, at 10.2m, with the unemployment rate down just 0.1% to 6.6%. The percentage of the population in or looking for work edged up to 63% from a three-decade low of 62.8% last month.
The number of long-term unemployed fell by 232,000, but the figure was probably affected by the fact that a million Americans lost their extended federal unemployment benefits at the end of December. Even so, the figure remains high at 3.6m - making up 35.8% of the ranks of the unemployed.
But stockmarkets on both sides of the Atlantic shrugged off the news to send share values up as analysts partly blamed the weather and traders focused on expectations of further economic strength. The
The jobs news comes against a background of steady improvement in many other areas of the US economy, pushing the annual rate of growth in the last three months of 2013 to 3.2%.
The boost to the
Analysts said the
The percentage point fall in the unemployment rate in
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