WASHINGTON – The US unemployment rate unexpectedly fell in January, to 9.0 percent from 9.4 percent in December, but job creation was flat as the economy grapples with a weak recovery, official data showed Friday.

It was the second month in a row the rate has fallen 0.4 percentage point. Most economists had expected the Labor Department to report the jobless rate rose to 9.5 percent.

The Labor Department, in reporting data incorporating new adjustments, highlighted that the revisions made monthly comparisons difficult.

Severe winter storms across broad swaths of the country appeared to have skewed the numbers, analysts said.

The proportion of those actively seeking jobs, which rose 0.1 point from December, to 58.4 percent, was below the January 2010 level of 58.5 percent, when the unemployment rate was at 9.7 percent.

The economy created 36,000 jobs, the department said, sharply below the average estimate of 148,000 and down from 103,000 new nonfarm payrolls in December.

According to the data, the economy had created by January 31 only one million jobs for the more than eight million lost between December 2007 and February 2010.

This video is from the Associated Press, published Friday, Feb. 4, 2011.