WASHINGTON — The U.S. unemployment rate dipped to 6.6 percent in January from 6.7 percent in December as college graduates flooded the job market, and most found work.
Among workers older than 25, 668,000 college graduates began looking for jobs last month, according to the Labor Department report issued Friday. And a nearly equal number of college graduates — 663,000 — were hired.
Their influx illustrates that U.S. workers, as a group, continue to become better educated. Employers have hired an average of 136,333 college graduates each month over the past year.
This has contributed to a decline in the unemployment rate among those with higher educations to 3.2 percent from 3.7 percent in January 2013.
Not every social group benefited from the unemployment rate’s decline to its lowest level since October 2008. The rate rose for African-Americans, Hispanics, and workers younger than 24.
Some economists had expected many people to stop looking for work last month after 1.4 million Americans lost their extended federal unemployment benefits at the end of last year. People are required to look for work to qualify for unemployment benefits. Once their checks were cut off, many former beneficiaries had been expected to end their job searches.
But the departures were minimal. And new arrivals caused the number of people seeking jobs to increase after the number had dropped the previous two months.
Economists expect many former recipients of unemployment benefits to give up their job searches in the weeks ahead. Once they do, they would no longer be counted as unemployed.
The share of unemployed Americans who have been without a job for at least half a year declined last month.