Job creation stumbled in December, with the economy adding just 74,000 positions even as the Federal Reserve voted to take the first steps in eliminating its stimulus program.
The unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent, below economist estimates and due primarily to continued shrinkage in the labor force. The labor force participation rate tumbled to 62.8 percent, its worst level since January 1978.
The monthly job creation was the worst in nearly three years and well below the upwardly revised 241,000 in November.
Economists had expected the economy to add 200,000 jobs in December, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 7.0 percent.
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