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US Jobless Rate Drops Unexpectedly

Capitol Hill

The U.S. jobless rate dropped to 9.7 percent in the first month of the new year, providing Americans with some good news that the economic recovery is taking hold. But overall the economy lost another 20,000 jobs, which was disappointing news as President Barack Obama and majority Democrats begin a push for new legislation to stimulate job growth.

The three tenths dip below 10 percent is a psychological boost for Americans, and for the president and majority Democrats as they try to win some Republican support for their economic policies.

In reporting the 9.7 percent figure, the lowest since last August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that, based on a survey of American households, the number of employed rose by 541,000, though overall 20,000 additional jobs were lost.

Bureau commissioner Keith Hall also noted a continuing upward trend in the number of people seeking but unable to find work.

"Both the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment rate declined in January, however the share of those jobless for 27 weeks and over continued to rise," he said.

Democrat Carolyn Maloney chaired the meeting of the bipartisan Joint Economic Committee.

"It appears that we are trending in the right direction," said Maloney.

President Obama has said job figures would have been far worse without the economic steps taken in his first year of office.

Republicans quickly put their own spin on the latest figures, pointing to the 2.8 million jobs lost in the economy since the Democratic-controlled Congress passed the president's economic stimulus in 2009.

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