The U.S. Department of Labor said 74,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, which is the smallest monthly job creation figure in nearly three years and less than the 200,000 jobs economists predicted. December's figures are a step back from November's job creation numbers, which were bumped up from 203,000 to 241,000.
The unemployment rate, however, ticked down from 7 percent in November to 6.7 percent in December, the lowest rate in five years. That drop is mainly due to a decreased labor force participation rate, which fell to 62.8 percent, the lowest point since January 1978, reported CNBC.
"A gain of only 74,000 new jobs in December stands in contrast to the strengthening posted in other major economic data, suggesting the dip in hiring might prove temporary," Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at The Conference Board, said in a statement.
Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, released a statement about December job's report, which read in part:
Today’s surprisingly disappointing jobs report should temper recent optimism of an improving labor market in 2014. The climb back to normal levels of employment remains steep. Most notably, the labor force shrank, the share of Americans with a job remains near its low during the Great Recession, and long-term unemployment remains historically high. Congress should move urgently to restore the emergency federal unemployment insurance benefits that it allowed to lapse at the end of the year, and policymakers also should consider other measures to speed the recovery and help the long-term unemployed find jobs.
The December jobs and unemployment report follows news from the Federal Reserve last month stating that the agency will begin gradually trimming the stimulus measures meant to bolster the economy. The Fed said it would purchase $75 billion in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities in January, down from $85 billion in December.