Republicans downplay jobs report, point to lower workforce participation

Blackburn said in June 2009, when the recession technically ended, the workforce participation rate was 65.7 percent. But since then, that participation rate has fallen to 63.7 percent.

"The difference between those two numbers represents 4.8 million people who have given up looking for work," she said. "If the labor force participation rate had remained where it was when he took office, at 65.7 percent, the unemployment rate for January 2012 would have been 11 percent rather than 8.3 percent."

Rep. Joe WilsonJoe WilsonOvernight Finance: Obama, leaders huddle on budget | McConnell tees up short-term spending bill | Trump says Yellen trying to help Obama GOP lawmaker wants answers on Iran payment 'Hardball' Pentagon memo creates firestorm MORE (R-S.C.) cited analysts who have said if part-time workers and college graduates holding jobs that don't require college degrees are factored in, the unemployment rate is closer to 20 percent.

One Democrat, however, took to the floor in defense of the report, which said 243,000 non-farm payroll jobs were created in January.

"The U.S. economy, which suffered its biggest blow since the Depression because of the financial meltdown in 2008 is picking up strength," said Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.). "But as the President said, Congress must not muck it up. We need to pass the payroll tax cut extension, fix the doctors fees and do an unemployment compensation."