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    US hiring still weak in January, but jobless rate falls to 6.6%

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    euronews (in English)

    by euronews (in English)

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    There was disappointing jobs news from the United States for the second month running.

    Employers there hired far fewer workers than expected in January – just 113,000.

    In addition job gains for December were barely revised up on the basis of updated information. They were raised only 1,000 to 75,000.

    December’s weak figures were blamed on cold weather, but that was not a factor in January as was demonstrated by strong gains in the construction structure.

    Hiring slipped in retail, utilities, government, and education and health.

    The numbers could be a problem for the Federal Reserve, which has started to taper its stimulus programme on the basis that the economy is on the mend.

    But new Fed chief Janet Yellen can take heart from the fact that the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 6.6 percent last month, even as more people came into the labour force.

    The jobless rate is based on a survey of households, which is why it differs from the headline trend from the government figures.

    By the numbers

    The private sector accounted for all the hiring in January. Government payrolls fell 29,000, the largest decline since October 2012.

    Manufacturing employment increased 21,000, rising for a sixth month. Retail sector jobs fell 12,900 after strong increases in the prior months, the first decline since March.

    Construction payrolls bounced back 48,000 after being depressed by the weather in December. It was the largest increase since December 2012.

    Average hourly earnings rose five cents. The length of the workweek was steady at an average of 34.4 hours.

    The participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, increased to 63 percent from 62.8 percent in December, when it fell back to the more than 35-year low hit in October.

    The unemployment rate is now flirting with the 6.5 percent level that Fed officials have said would trigger discussions over when to raise benchmark interest rates from near zero.

    But US central bank policymakers have made it clear that rates will not rise any time soon even if the unemployment threshold is breached.