In another sign that the US economy is flagging, there was a surprise fall in the number of jobs created there in January. It is the first time there has not been an increase in nearly four and a half years
US payrolls shrank by 17,000; economists had forecast that they would rise by 80,000. The total of those without jobs did fall to 4.9% of the working population from 5% in December, but the number of people in the civilian labour force declined.
US lawmakers are wrangling over a 100 million euro economic stimulus package that the Bush administration says should add 500,000 jobs to the economy.
The service sector, which includes retailers, banks, insurance companies and restaurants, added 34,000 jobs. Manufacturing employment fell, along with the construction industry and government payrolls.
Analysts said the weak jobs figures mean that the Federal Reserve is going to have to continue cutting interest rates.