The US jobs machine slowed in January with just 151,000 net new positions, but the unemployment rate eased to an eight-year low of 4.9 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The downshift pace of hiring, after averaging 271,000 new jobs over the previous two months, was fresh evidence of the US economy hitting a soft patch.
Workers' earnings, now closely watched as a sign of whether inflationary pressures might begin building, were slightly stronger. Average hourly earnings rose by 0.5 percent from December to $25.39, and were up 2.5 percent year-on-year.
But the total number of unemployed persons, at 7.8 million, was only slightly better from December.
And the number of long-term unemployed, and the number of people forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time work -- indicators of how much slack remains in the jobs market -- were both little-changed.