By Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. job market is off to an unsteady start in 2014 with yet another lackluster unemployment report released on Friday.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs report showed the U.S. added 113,000 jobs in January, bringing the average growth rate over the last three months to just 154,000 jobs.
"At this pace, it will take more than six years to get back to pre-recession labor market conditions," said Economic Policy Institute labor economist Heidi Shierholz in a report on the organization's website.
At the same time, while the labor force participation rate rose by two-tenths of a percentage point on Friday, it remains depressed. Indeed, there are still 5.7 million missing workers -- workers who have given up looking for work, or never started because job openings are so weak -- although the slight increase is a step in the right direction, Shierholz said.
"Altogether, today's data show that 2014 did not get off to a strong start," she said.
Brookings Institution's senior fellow Gary Burtless said in an email to reporters that while the labor force participation rate increased 0.2 percentage points in January, the rate has over the past year fallen 0.6 percentage points.
That is partly because of the aging of the population and partly because of continued weakness in the job market, he said.
However, there is a sliver of good news, as the unemployment rate declined by one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.6 percent. And in an unusual twist, the decline was for good reasons -- a higher share of the potential workforce found work, with the share of the workforce with a job rising by two-tenths of a percentage point, Shierholz said.
The figure comes on the heels of previous drops in the unemployment rate spurred by people dropping out of the workforce out of sheer frustration, not because they found work. The BLS bases its calculations on the number of people seeking full-time jobs.