Pace of U.S. job growth continues to slow

The pace of job growth in the United States remained well below average for a second straight month even as the unemployment rate edged down to its lowest level in five years.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls increased 113,000 in January. That gain followed an increase of 75,000 in December. Both numbers were below the average monthly increase in payrolls of 194,000 during 2013.

The estimated gain in November payrolls was revised upward by 33,000, however, to 274,000.

For January, the U.S. jobless rate slipped a tenth of a point to 6.6 percent. The drop occurred even though the proportion of people counted among those working or looking for work inched up two-tenths of a point to 63 percent.

The number of people counted among the long-term unemployed who’ve been out of work for 27 weeks or more fell 232,000 in January, but remained at 3.6 million. The number of people counted among those involuntarily working part time fell by 514,000 to 7.3 million.

Payroll gains were spread out among a number of industry sectors in January. Construction employment increased 48,000, professional and business services added 36,000 net new jobs and the leisure and hospitality sector reported 24,000 new jobs. Factory payrolls rose 21,000 and employment in wholesale trades increased 14,000. Retail trades reported a net loss of 13,000 jobs, while federal government payrolls declined 12,000.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls remained unchanged in January at 34.4 hours. The manufacturing workweek was shorter by two-tenths of an hour at 40.7 hours. Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls increased 5 cents to $24.21. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 46 cents, or 1.9 percent.