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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 14:19 GMT
US jobs growth less than forecast
US car worker
The latest jobs growth figures are unlikely to impress
The US economy generated 193,000 new jobs in January, fewer than economists had been expecting for the month.

However, the US unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to a four-and-a-half year low of 4.7%, the Department of Labor reported.

Analysts had forecast that 240,000 jobs would be created in January, although they expected the US jobless rate to remain unchanged at 4.9%.

Separately, a key guide of US consumer sentiment dipped slightly in January.

The much-watched University of Michigan consumer sentiment indicator for January fell to 91.2 from 91.5.

Meanwhile, US factory orders rose 1.1% in December compared to November, said the US Commerce Department, in line with expectations.

Productivity falls

The Labor Department said 140,000 jobs were generated in December, up from a previous figure for the month of 108,000.

Consumers are facing high oil prices, but they are still displaying a remarkable amount of resilience
Economist Kurt Karl

Some 354,000 were created in November, up from a previously reported 305,000, the department added.

Separate government figures on Thursday showed that US's five-year productivity boom ground to a halt at the end of 2005.

For the final three months of last year, productivity - a measure of output per employee - fell by 0.6%, the first such slide since early 2001.

'Right direction'

With such a wealth of separate data being released on the same day, analysts of the US economy had a lot to chew on.

Kurt Karl, chief US economist at Swiss Re in New York, said he expected the US Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates.

"Consumers are facing high oil prices, but they are still displaying a remarkable amount of resilience," he said.

Looking specifically at US factory orders, Mr Karl added: "It's not a booming part of the economy, but it's heading in the right direction."

The US services sector slowed more than expected in January, yet more US data showed on Friday.

According to the Institute for Supply Management's own figures, it dipped to 56.8% in January, from 61% a month earlier.


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