Hugely disappointing jobs numbers from the US. Payrolls there – excluding agriculture – grew by just 36,000 in January.
Economists had predicted that there would be a much larger increase of around 145,000.
The meagre job gains are partly the result of severe snow storms that slammed large parts of the US during the month.
The jobless rate, which is calculated from a separate survey, actually fell to 9.0 percent of the working population from 9.4 percent in December but experts said that that is because many people have given up looking for work, which means they were no longer counted among the ranks of the unemployed.
Manufacturing and retail hired more people while construction and transportation laid them off, which is likely to have been weather-related.
But still the labour market is lagging behind the broader US economy, which grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2010 – but not enough to create jobs.
One day before the latest figures were released, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said: “It will be several years before the unemployment rate has returned to a more normal level.”