The U.S. economy added a mere net new 36,000 jobs last month, although the unemployment rate fell sharply to 9.0 percent from 9.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In the prior month, 121,000 jobs had been created.

In January, employment rose in manufacturing and in retail trade but was down in construction and in transportation and warehousing, BLS added.

Employment in most other major industries changed little over the month.

Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics, said the severe winter weather played a role.

“According to the alternative household survey, 707,000 people said they couldn't work because of the weather last month, more than double the 283,000 average for a normal January,” he wrote. “The weather effects are also evident in the non-farm payrolls figures themselves, with construction shedding 32,000 jobs and temporary help falling by 11,000.”

Ashworth added that before the latest revisions, the estimates suggested that over the past year 1.1 million of the 8.3 million jobs lost during the recession had returned. Now it appears that only 950,000 of the 8.6 million jobs have been recovered.