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The U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs in January while unemployment rose to 7.9 percent. Most analysts predicted job growth of around 170,000.

The job growth is almost equal to the average monthly gains that the United States has managed in recent years. It is slow, plodding progress that does little to assist the 12 million or so jobless workers. Little optimism for a faster expansion can be found anywhere else in the latest employment report. For example, the length of the average workweek, another gauge of labor market health, was unchanged. Other downbeat measures have recently surfaced: the economy unexpectedly contracted to end 2012 and consumers are becoming increasingly unsettled.

The jobs data will likely reinforce the Federal Reserve’s stance that the economy is in a tepid recovery and requires stimulative policies for at least the next two years, Forbes reports. A recent meeting of the Fed’s policy committee showed nearly all central bank officials believe it will need to continue pumping billions of dollars into the financial system — and are not concerned by mild readings on inflation.

Transportation and warehousing jobs dipped, led by 18,500 jobs lost in the courier and messenger sector and a drop of 4,900 jobs in air transportation. Trucking was up 5,000 jobs, and transit gained 3,000 in January. Auto dealers and manufacturers as well as heavy engineering jobs, which include highway construction, ticked up in January.

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