The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.6% from 6.7% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. That’s the lowest level since October 2008.
The latest report may have been influenced by other unusual factors that render it less reliable as a bellwether of labor-market trends: extremely cold and snowy weather and the government’s annual “benchmark” update on how many jobs were created in the past year .
U.S. stock futures gyrated after the lower-expected increase in employment, turning lower and then turning higher. Economists had forecasted 190,000 jobs.
Employment gains for December and November, meanwhile, were mixed. The number of new jobs created in December was barely changed at 75,000 compared to an earlier result of 74,000, while November’s figure was revised up to 274,000 from 241,000.
The so-called labor force participation rate edged up to 63.0% from 62.8% in December, which matched a 35-year low. The participation rate reflects the percentage of people who hold a job or are looking for one. A sharp decline in participation over the past few years is largely responsible for the falling unemployment rate.