Unemployment in the U.S. dropped to the lowest level in nearly two years in the first month of 2011 despite payroll growth that was far weaker than expected, according to Reuters. On Friday, the Labor Department reported that non-farm payrolls in the U.S. increased by just 36,000 in January, falling far short of economists’ forecast for 145,000 jobs to be created. However, the report found the unemployment rate was down to 9.0%, which is the lowest level since April 2009. Combined with December, the 0.8% drop in the jobless rate represents the largest two-month decline in over 50 years.
The data from the Labor Department showed stark differences, with the survey of businesses for employment information offering a bleak view of job growth, although a poll of households to determine the unemployment rate found almost 600,000 more people were employed In January than the previous month. The report also revised upwards November and December payroll data to show 40,000 more jobs were created in those months than had been previously estimated. Despite the poor headline payroll figure, economists noted that harsh winter weather might have hampered job growth.