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Jobless Rate Drops to 4.7%

At that level, it's the lowest since July 2001. The economy added 193,000 jobs last month.

Updated from 8:42 a.m. EST

The nation's unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in four and a half years last month, and the economy added 193,000 jobs in January, according to the Labor Department.

At 4.7%, the jobless rate hasn't been this low since July 2001. Additionally, payrolls for November and December were revised higher by a combined 81,000.

On average, economists had been predicting that about 250,000 workers were added to U.S. payrolls last month, with the unemployment rate seen remaining at 4.9%. The government said job gains have averaged 174,000 a month since January 2005.

Job gains occurred in several industries, the Labor Department said, including construction, mining, food services and drinking establishments, health care and financial activities. Retail trade, however, showed a loss of 2,000 jobs.

Contributing to the overall growth was the warmer-than-normal weather, which spurred construction projects in January. Average hourly earnings rose 0.4%, or 7 cents, to $16.41, seasonally adjusted. Average weekly earnings rose by $2.37.

The average workweek for production or nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 33.8 hours last month. The manufacturing workweek, at 40.8 hours, and factory overtime, at 4.5 hours, were also unchanged.