Recession Watch

Unemployment Falls to 9.7 Percent

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 9.7 percent in January, the lowest level since last August and deeper than analysts expected, according to Labor Department figures released on Friday. But—surprise!—there's bad news too. While payrolls fell by a mere 20,000 in January, the job-loss figures for December almost doubled, adjusted from a loss of 85,000 to a loss of 150,000. And for the first time, the Labor Department also released data on earnings and weekly hours: In January, the average work week rose to 33.9 hours compared with 33.8 hours in December and weekly earnings increased to $761.06 from $757.46 over the same period.