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Job growth grinds down to two-year low

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WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added a measly 74,000 new jobs last month, the government said today. That was the lowest jobs number in about two years and a major disappointment after a recent string of positive economic signs pointed to stronger growth.

The weak hiring confounded most analysts’ expectations for job growth of about 200,000, which was the monthly average of the prior three months. The construction section, rather than resurging as some had predicted, shed a large 19,000 jobs to close out the year, although Labor Department officials said bad weather in parts of the country may have affected the payroll count.

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