Luca Di Leo and Jeff Bater
Dow Jones
February 5, 2010

[efoods]The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined in January, but the economy continued to shed jobs and revisions painted a bleaker picture for 2009, casting doubt over the labor market’s strength.

The unemployment rate, calculated using a household survey, fell to 9.7% last month from an unrevised 10% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast the jobless rate would edge higher to 10.1%.

Meantime, nonfarm payrolls fell by 20,000 compared with a revised 150,000 drop decline in December. Economists had expected payrolls to be flat. The December figure was revised down sharply from an originally reported 85,000 drop.

The Labor Department’s annual benchmark revision to the survey that produces the monthly payroll report painted a bleaker 2009 picture. Last year, job losses were almost 600,000 more than previously reported, the revisions showed.

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