In reaction to Friday's Labor Department statistics showing that the national employment rate has fallen to 6.7 percent, Thea Lee, AFL-CIO deputy chief of staff, released the following statement:

The unemployment rate has finally dipped below 7 percent -- more than four and a half years since the recession supposedly ended. But that fall was driven mostly by people dropping out of the labor force, not by healthy job creation. Job growth at only 74,000 net new jobs last month is nowhere near robust enough to get the labor market back on track for healthy growth and full employment.

It is more critical than ever for Congress to quit dawdling and pass an extension of Unemployment Insurance immediately. It is a disgrace that 1.3 million Americans lost benefits at the end of December while too many Republicans in Congress remain fixated on irrelevant and counter-productive austerity measures.