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U.S. Unemployment Down to 6.6 Percent, Labor Participation at 35-Year Low


U.S. employers added 113,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.6 percent, down from its previous rate of 6.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Earlier estimates had put the number of new jobs at around 185,000.

"Today’s report is another reminder of both the progress that has been made and the challenges that remain," the White House said in a statement after the report was released.

But given "the elevated long-term unemployment rate," the statement added, "extending emergency unemployment benefits for the 1.7 million workers who lost them is critical. At the same time, the President will continue to focus on action, both pushing forward on priorities with Congress and using his pen and his phone to expand opportunity and growth."

Much like December’s unemployment report, some of January’s decline can be attributed to people who have given up looking for work.

The U-6 unemployment rate, considered a broader measure of actual unemployment in the U.S., fell to 12.7 percent, down from its earlier read of 13.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate increased again to 63 percent, up from its previous rate of 62.8 percent, a slight improvement but still at a 35-year low:


The decline in unemployment and the slight increase in labor force participation comes weeks after the United States Federal Reserve announced it would taper its multibillion-dollar quantitative easing policies. The Fed announced in December it would drawdown its $85 billion monthly purchases of Treasurys and Treasury mortgage-backed securities by $5 billion each starting in January.

Industries, including transportation and warehousing, information and financial activities, saw virtually no change in employment in January.

Further, according to Friday’s report, the employment-population ratio “increased by 0.2 percentage point to 58.8 percent.”


Here’s unemployment broken up by group:

  • Men: 6.2 Percent (previous: 6.3 percent)
  • Women: 5.9 percent (previous: 6.0  percent)
  • Teenagers: 20.7 percent (previous: 20.2 percent)
  • Whites: 5.7 percent (previous: 5.9 percent)
  • Blacks: 12.1 percent (previous: 11.9 percent)
  • Hispanics: 8.4 percent (previous: 8.3 percent)
  • Asians (not seasonally adjusted): 4.8 percent (previous: 4.1 percent)

At 3.6 million, the number of the long-term unemployed declined by roughly 232,000 in January, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the number of persons “marginally attached” to the labor force in January increased to 2.6 million, up from its previous posting of 2.4 million.

"These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey," the report reads.

It continues:

Among the marginally attached, there were 837,000 discouraged workers in January, about unchanged from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.8 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in January had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

Markets are opening slightly higher on the bleak report, perhaps hopeful that this type of data will prolong the Fed's easing policies:


Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

This report has been updated.

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