Job numbers released Friday show that the American economy is off to a rough start for 2014, with only 118,000 new jobs created in January.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs created last month is better that the 75,000 jobs produced in December, but well below the 178,000 economists predicted. The January job gains were also well below 2013’s average monthly job growth of 194,000.
The December and January job numbers mark the weakest two-months in job growth over the past three years.
Despite the disappointing job growth numbers, BLS said that the unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 percent, the lowest it has been since October 2008. But the drop is likely related to the discontinuation of jobless benefits to many long-term unemployed Americans last year. BLS estimates that the 3.2 million long-term unemployed Americans account for about 35.8 percent of all unemployed.
The highest rates of unemployment occurred among America’s teenagers (20.7 percent) and black Americans (12.1 percent), according to the jobs report.
Jason Furman, the White House Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said the jobs numbers were encouraging and urged lawmakers to extend benefits for the millions of Americans who are still long-term unemployed.
He said, “Today’s report is another reminder of both the progress that has been made and the challenges that remain. Businesses have now added 8.5 million jobs over the last 47 months and the unemployment rate ticked down to its lowest level in more than five years. But the economy is still healing from the Great Recession and steps are still needed to expand economic opportunity.
“Given the elevated long-term unemployment rate, extending emergency unemployment benefits for the 1.7 million workers who lost them is critical,” Furman continued. “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.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that government could better help the long-term unemployed by getting out of the way of job creating projects.
”The American people continue to ask ‘where are the jobs?,’ and the president clearly has no answers. Republicans do. …We are ready to improve job training, expand markets for American exports, approve the Keystone pipeline, and much more. The president and his party’s leaders, however, are standing in the way. Their failure to lead has resulted in the worst jobs recovery in history and, as we learned this week, their health care law will drive millions out of an already-diminished labor force.”