Jan. 10 - Employers hired the fewest workers in nearly three years, stunning economists and complicating the job ahead for the new Fed chief. Fred Katayama reports.
A stunning setback in jobs just when things seemed to be picking up. The U.S. economy eked out the fewest jobs in nearly three years last month. The 74,000 hired was far fewer than the 196,000 economists had expected, and a lot slower than the pace in the previous months. The number was a shocker because recent data on manufacturing, services, and consumer spending suggested the economy had gained momentum. Cold weather may be behind the cold results. Employment fell at construction companies, and jobs rose only a tad in the leisure sector. Seasonal factors make December data hard to judge, so this setback could be temporary. The jobless rate fell to 6.7 percent from 7 percent, but that was partly because more people gave up looking for work. The report complicates the job ahead for Janet Yellen, who takes over as Fed chief next month. The Fed had said it would trim its monthly bond purchases. ITG Investment Research chief economist Steve Blitz: SOUNDBITE: STEVE BLITZ, CHIEF ECONOMIST, ITG INVESTMENT RESEARCH (ENGLISH) SAYING: "As far as the impact of this number, I think it takes any sense that they might accelerate the amount of tapering off the table, and they'll wait until the next meeting after that, which is in the middle of March, to take up the idea of maybe tapering at a little bit of a faster pace." Stocks were choppy as investors digested the data.