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Unemployment Rate Falls To 9.4%; 103,000 Jobs Added

The nation's jobless rate declined to 9.4 percent in December from 9.8 percent the month before. And businesses added a relatively modest 103,000 jobs to their payrolls, the Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported.

We'll add more to this post as we sift through the report. So hit your "refresh" button to make sure you're seeing our latest additions.

And Planet Money will be on the news as well.

Update at 10 a.m. ET. President Obama is due to talk about the economy around 11:35 a.m. ET. On the White House blog, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee writes that "we still have a ways to go."

Goolsbee also, though, notes that "1.3 million private sector jobs [were added] to the economy during 2010, the strongest private sector job growth since 2006."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, has a different take on the report. His office issued this statement from the Republican leader:

"Any signs of job growth are encouraging, but 9.4 percent unemployment and a $14 trillion debt are by no means adequate to get our economy growing.  Hard work lies ahead to reduce uncertainty, start creating jobs again, and restore confidence in our economy. It isn’t new faces Americans are looking for -- it’s new policies that will cut spending and grow our economy.

"These are the priorities of the new House majority. We have already implemented reforms to make it easier to cut spending, and cut our own budget to demonstrate our commitment to making real cuts and tough choices. Today, we will take the first steps towards repealing the job-killing health care law, so we can replace it with reforms that will lower costs and protect jobs. Our economy will ultimately recover, but it will do so because of hard work and entrepreneurship, not more wasteful Washington spending."

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Some early analyses:

-- Bloomberg News: "Payrolls need to grow about double December’s pace to make further progress in lowering the jobless rate."

-- The Wall Street Journal: "The U.S. economy added fewer jobs than expected in December, but the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 19 months as more people who still remain in the work force found employment."

-- Reuters: " 'The labor market improvement is still way slower than what everybody would hope for,' said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Research in New York."

Update at 8:42 a.m. ET. When looking at the unemployment rate, it's always important to dig behind the numbers a bit. For example, what is the "participation rate" -- the percentage of people either working or looking for work? If it goes down, that could be a sign that many are discouraged and not looking for work (and it could also help lower the overall unemployment rate).

In December, the participation rate declined to 64.3 percent from 64.5 percent the month before.

And, the number of "discouraged workers" rose to 1.32 million from 1.28 million in November.

Update at 8:36 a.m. ET. The BLS says:

"The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised from [an increase of] 172,000 to [up] 210,000, and the change for November was revised from [up] 39,000 to [up] 71,000."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.