WASHINGTON – Hiring was surprisingly weak in January for the second straight month, likely renewing concern that the U.S. economy might be slowing after a strong finish last year.
The Labor Department says employers added 113,000 jobs, less than the average monthly gain of 194,000 in 2013. This follows December's tepid increase of just 75,000. Job gains have averaged only 154,000 the past three months, down from 201,000 in the preceding three months.
Still, more people began looking for work in January, and some of the jobless were hired, reducing the unemployment rate to 6.6 percent. That's the lowest since October 2008.
Cold weather likely held back hiring in December, economists said, but the impact faded in January. Construction firms, which sometimes stop work in bad weather, added 48,000 jobs last month.