The Labor Department's December jobs report confounded forecasters Friday, with only 74,000 jobs added, the fewest in three years, but the unemployment rate falling from 7 to 6.7 percent.
Expectations for the month were for about 200,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate to remain unchanged.
The December rate is the lowest level October 2008. The number of unemployed Americans declined by 490,000 to 10.4 million, according to the report.
The private sector added 87,000 jobs, while governments at different levels trimmed their payrolls by 13,000, the department said.