US economic growth rose in January to its best in more than two years, fueled by gains in manufacturing, retail and construction.
The unemployment rate ticked down to 5.3% from 5.5%, the Commerce Department said on Thursday, while the unemployment rate for Americans aged 16 to 64 fell to 7.9% from 8.4%.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected a revised rate of 6.3%.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that the unemployment benefits of people who have been out of work for at least 12 weeks fell by about 3.2 million from a month earlier, to a seasonally adjusted average of $3,800 a week.
It said that about 12 million Americans received the unemployment benefit last month, up from 10.2% in December.
The Labor Department said Thursday that its final monthly jobs report showed that more than 6.2m people had gained jobs during the month of January, while 3.4m lost their jobs.
It also reported that more people were working part-time, a decline from December that was driven largely by the hiring of temporary help.
“This is a great month for the economy,” President Donald Trump said in a televised speech Friday.
The president also said he expects the unemployment insurance program to expand by more than a third to an average of about $3.2 billion a month.
The jobs report comes as the economy is struggling with a slowing population, the worst of any major advanced economy.
The pace of job growth has been a drag on consumer spending, a key driver of the recovery.
A weaker dollar has hurt exports, and the Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark interest rate.
The government is still projecting economic growth of 3.7% in the third quarter.
But economists said that rate could slow to 2.9%.
“The labor market is tightening, but we’re not sure that’s good enough to get us through this,” said John Hussman, an economist at the Council of Economic Advisers.
“We’re in a situation where the unemployment is getting higher, the economy’s slowing down, and we’re just not able to get that growth back.”
Economists were forecasting a 0.3 percentage point rise in the unemployment average in January, up slightly from a 0% gain the previous month.
A Reuters poll on Thursday showed that about two-thirds of Americans said the economy was getting worse and that the economy could get worse before it gets better.