January 10, 2014 11:56 pm JST

Dec. U.S. jobless rate down to 5-yr low of 6.7%, 74,000 nonfarm jobs

WASHINGTON (Kyodo)--The U.S. jobless rate dropped to a five-year low of 6.7 percent in December from 7.0 percent the previous month, while the country's economy created a smaller-than-expected 74,000 nonfarm jobs, Labor Department data showed Friday.

     The average market expectation was for a jobless rate of 7.0 percent and 196,000 new nonfarm jobs. The unemployment rate was the lowest since October 2008, when the figure stood at 6.5 percent.

     The department revised upward the number of nonfarm jobs created in November to 241,000 from an earlier reported 203,000, and kept the figure for October unchanged at 200,000.

     In December, the private sector added 87,000 jobs, while the government sector shed 13,000 jobs.

     The service sector, in normal times the engine of job creation in the United States, created 90,000 jobs. Retailers generated 55,300 jobs, and the professional and business services sector -- which includes consulting, accounting and computer services -- added 19,000 workers.

     Payrolls in the education and health services sector were unchanged from the previous month, compared with a gain of 41,000 jobs in November.

     The goods-producing sector lost 3,000 jobs, with the construction sector slashing payrolls by 16,000 while the manufacturing sector added 9,000 jobs, the department said.

     Average hourly earnings in the private sector, a key gauge of inflation, stood at $20.35 in December, up from a revised $20.32 in November.