The U.S. economy had a net gain of 151,000 jobs in January, which is lower than the previous couple of months and less than most economists had predicted.
Friday’s report from the Labor Department also said the unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.9 percent, its lowest level in nearly eight years.
“The United States of America right now has the strongest, most durable economy in the world,” said President Barack Obama, commenting on the report. In remarks at the White House, he said businesses have added 14 million new jobs in just under six years.
The new data show U.S. wages rose 2.5 percent over the past year, and Mr. Obama said that over the past six months, “wages have grown at the fastest rate since the (2007 – 2008 financial) crisis.”
WATCH: President Obama discusses the U.S. economy:
Government experts say 7.8 million people remain out of work, and another 6 million who want full-time employment can only find part-time jobs. American Enterprise Institute scholar Aparna Mathur says the data show little progress in cutting the long-term jobless rate or the high unemployment rate among teenagers.
Last month, jobs were lost in warehousing, private education companies and the oil industry, while hiring rose in retail, restaurants, health care and manufacturing.
S&P rating chief economist Beth Ann Bovino says the hiring numbers are below expectations, but still show “America’s recovery is continuing” and may encourage the central bank to continue raising interest rates.
Tara Sinclair, chief economist for the jobs site “Indeed,” says the report is a positive indicator and shows that demand for workers is still high.
A separate report on U.S. trade was less positive, showing a growing gap between what U.S. companies sell to foreign buyers and what Americans buy from abroad. The trade deficit grew $1.2 billion in December to a total of more than $43 billion for the month.
Analysts say the strong U.S. currency is making American-made products more expensive on global markets, hurting sales. Wells Fargo Bank experts also say slow growth in U.S. trading partners is hurting demand for exports, which can slow U.S. economic growth.