U.S. jobless rate retreats, but payroll gains modest

The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped again, but payroll gains remain modest.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, the national jobless rate dropped four-tenths to 9 percent in January, but nonfarm payrolls grew only 36,000.

While the unemployment rate has retreated eight-tenths of a percent since hitting 9.8 percent in November, the decrease is attributed in part to the number of people giving up job searches and leaving the work force.

The January gain in payrolls was the smallest in four months. However, estimated job gains for December and November were revised upward a total of 40,000 to 214,000. Since February 2010, payroll employment has increased an average of 93,000 a month.

For January, employment rose 49,000 in manufacturing, 28,000 in retail trades and 11,000 in health care.

Those gains more than offset a loss of 38,000 jobs in transportation and warehousing, 32,000 jobs in construction and 11,000 jobs in temporary help services.

The average workweek for employees on nonfarm payrolls edged up a tenth of an hour to 34.2 hours in January. The average manufacturing workweek rose a tenth of an hour to 40.5 hours.

The average hourly earnings of employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose eight cents to $22.86. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 1.9 percent.