US jobs report for Jan. might be hard to interpret

WASHINGTON (AP) — Economists are forecasting a rebound in job creation from December's dismal figure when the labor Department releases January data today.

A survey of economists by FactSet predicts that employers added 170,000 jobs in January and that the unemployment rate remained at 6.7 percent. In December, only 74,000 jobs were created, far below the average gain of 214,000 a month in the previous four months.

The report due today is one of the most highly anticipated in months following various signs of economic weakness in the United States and overseas that have sent stock prices sinking.

Solid job gains and a healthy decline in the unemployment rate could reverse much of the pessimism. Dismal hiring, though, would inflame fears that the U.S. economy has begun to falter.

But unseasonably cold winter weather and a cutoff of extended unemployment benefits in December could distort January's numbers.

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