The US unemployment rate edged below 5 per cent last month for the first time in nearly eight years, even as the pace of payroll expansion slowed, the federal Bureau of Labour Statistics said Friday.

Based on a survey of households, the unemployment rate was a seasonally adjusted 4.9 per cent, down from 5 per cent in December and 5.7 per cent in January 2015.

US President Barack Obama made public remarks to tout the data showing the rate falling below 5 per cent for the first time in his administration.

"The United States of America right now has the strongest, most durable economy in the world," he told reporters.

He called the data "inconvenient" for Republican presidential candidates who have focused on economic "gloom and despair" as they seek their party's nomination ahead of November elections.

A separate survey of employers showed payrolls grew in January by 151,000, down from an average of 271,000 in the previous two months.

The US economy gained an average of more than 228,000 jobs in 2015.

The weaker pace of hiring in January followed a late 2015 slowdown in the US economy.

Gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of just 0.7 per cent in the October-December quarter, amid slower growth in consumer spending and declines in exports. Annualized growth was 2 per cent in the third quarter.

US consumer prices declined in December by a seasonably adjusted 0.1 per cent as oil prices continued to fall. For 2015, the US consumer price index rose 0.7 per cent, according to government data this month.

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