January unemployment rate drops to 9.7% - USATODAY.com WASHINGTON (AP) The unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly in January to 9.7%, while employers shed 20,000 jobs, according to a report that offered hope the economy will add jobs soon. The unemployment rate dropped from 10% because a survey of households found the number of employed Americans rose 541,000, the Labor Department said Friday. The job losses are calculated from a separate survey of employers. Excluding the beleaguered construction industry, which shed 75,000 jobs, the private sector added 63,000 positions. The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since August. John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo, said the decline wasn't a result of a shrinking labor force, which has held the rate down in previous months. "It simply was, people found jobs," he said. The report is "consistent with continued improvement in the labor market."