The U.S. Department of Labor reported this morning that job growth for December was far below expectations, with businesses adding just 74,000 jobs to their payrolls.
Unemployment declined in December to 6.7%. The drop was partially attributed to discouraged job seekers giving up their search. Unemployment for the year was 7.3%, its lowest level in five years.
Analysts had forecast that the U.S. economy would add an average of 200,000 jobs in December, according to a Bloomberg survey. The surprisingly sluggish growth was attributed to a particularly frigid December and continuing uncertainty among employers. The jobs announcement comes at a time when the Federal Reserve is preparing to scale back its economic stimulus program and Congress is embroiled in a debate about extending benefits to the long-term unemployed.