Unemployment rate falls to five-year low of 6.6 percent

Feb. 7, 2014 at 11:19 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 percent in January, a five-year low, on the addition of 113,000 jobs -- far fewer than expected.

Construction trades gained 48,000 jobs in January, a comeback from December when the sector lost 22,000 jobs. Wholesale trades gained 14,000 in January while mining added 7,000 and manufacturing, 21,000, the Labor Department said Friday.

Professional and business services gained 36,000 positions and recreation and hospitality added 24,000.

Retail dropped 13,000 positions in the month. The healthcare sector was unchanged.

But the total number of new jobs fell short of the 185,000 economists had predicted and was far fewer than the 194,000 average for 2013.

The drop in the unemployment rate sounds positive but the scant addition of new jobs signals a continued exit of workers from the statistical pool as people give up looking for work out of frustration.

The number of long-term unemployed declined by 232,000 in January, more than twice the number of jobs gained. Long-term unemployed -- those out of work for half a year or more -- account for a significant 35.8 percent of the unemployed, the department said.

The number of long-term unemployed workers "remained at crisis levels," the National Employment Law Project said in a statement.

"The continued failure of Congress to renew federal unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed is shameful," said Christine Owens, executive director of NELP.

In a release, the White House noted the private sector has gained 8.6 million jobs in 47 consecutive months of job growth.

"Today's report is another reminder of both the progress that has been made and the challenges that remain," the statement said. "Given the elevated long-term unemployment rate, extending emergency unemployment benefits for the 1.7 million workers who lost them is critical."

January marks the second consecutive month of disappointing gains in employment. Although the department revised December's jobs gain from 74,000 to 75,000 Friday, the figure still fell far short of the 2013 monthly average.

The department also revised November's job total higher. In November, 274,000 jobs were added to the economy, not the 241,000 previously estimated.

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