US Sees Weak New Job Gains In December
The US economy added 74,000 new jobs in December, a level far below analysts' expections.
The figure takes unemployment to a five-year low, but industry experts had expected the US economy to add 197,000 new jobs last month.
The job creation figure, released by the Labor Department, is watched closely as a sign of the economy's health.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the world's biggest advanced economy dropped to 6.7% - because fewer people were seeking work.
Foreign currencies, such as sterling, immediately strengthened against the dollar.
Analysts played down fears that the lower than expected rate of growth was a sign that the economy is stalling.
Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors, said: "I don't think the Fed is going to be panicked by this."
Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at brokerage firm BTIG, said: "We stop short of making larger observations based on this number.
"The economy, based on any number of other indicators, has been picking up steam of late which makes today's number ... curious."
The leisure, manufacturing and services sectors all added jobs in December.
But the construction sector shed 16,000 jobs - the biggest drop in 20 months - during a month when much of the country experienced bad weather.
The overall outlook for the US economy remains positive, with recent figures for consumer spending and industrial output strong.
The economy is predicted to grow by 3% in 2014, up on 1.7% last year.
The Federal Reserve responded to recent positive signs by announcing last month that it would start "tapering" its monetary stimulus programme by $10bn, from $85bn to $75bn.
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