The U.S. economy added a disappointing 148,000 jobs in December while the unemployment rate held at 4.1 percent, according to a closely watched Labor Department report Friday.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had been expecting nonfarm payrolls to grow by 190,000. The total was well below the November pace of 252,000, which was revised up from the initially reported 228,000.

An unexpected loss of 20,000 retail positions during the holiday season held back the headline number. The unemployment rate for blacks fell to 6.8 percent, its lowest ever.

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