The US economy added just 74,000 jobs in December, but the overall unemployment rate continued to fall, hitting 6.7 percent, the lowest since October 2008, the Labor Department said Friday.
The job creation figure, watched more closely as a sign of the health of the economy, was far less than the 197,000 analysts expected, and well below the trend for the past year.
The unemployment rate meanwhile took its second 0.3 percentage point fall in two months, and was down from 7.9 percent a year earlier.
The two key figures come from different surveys — the job growth numbers from business and official establishments and the jobless rate from household data, explaining some of the discrepancy.
In the establishment data, private firms generated a net 87,000 jobs last month, largely in the retail trade and temporary jobs, with a drop in construction jobs paralleling bad weather in many parts of the country.
Meanwhile government jobs at all levels fell a net 13,000.
The household survey showed a significant fall in the size of the labor force, by 347,000, which combined with a 143,000 rise in the number of those with jobs, contributed to the sharp jobless rate fall.