U.S. employers created an unexpectedly low 157,000 jobs in January, nudging up the nation's unemployment rate to 7.9 percent, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Analysts had expected new job creation to be about 165,000 to 166,000 and the nation's unemployment rate to remain at 7.8 percent.

It's a gain that's indicative of economic expansion, but one that's still too small to lower the nation's high unemployment rate, which rose to 7.9 percent in January.

There was one unqualified bright spot in the January report: job gains from November and December were revised substantially higher - November to 247,000 from 161,000; December to 196,000 from 155,000.

About 12.3 million Americans who are looking for work remain jobless.