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Employers hired a modest 115,000 workers last month, the Labor Department said. But those new jobs were more than offset by a drop in the labour force of 342,000 as people abandoned their search for work.
The participation rate - the percentage of the population currently in work - slipped from 63.8pc to 63.6pc last month, a 30-year low. The number of "discouraged workers" - those who are not actively looking for work because they believe there are no available jobs - reached 968,000.