The U.S. economy added few jobs in January as stormy weather likely kept people out of work. The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since April 2009 in a mixed report that points to a gradually improving market for workers.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 36,000 last month, far below Wall Street expectations; economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast payrolls would rise by 136,000. Manufacturers reported employment gains but builders, transportation and warehousing companies reported declines, likely due to bad winter weather.

The unemployment rate, obtained from a separate household survey, fell to 9.0% last month. About 13.86 million people who would like to work can’t get a job. The economist survey predicted the opposite, that the jobless rate would rise to 9.5% from the previous month’s 9.4%.

The two surveys can give conflicting views of the jobs market, but tend to converge over the long term. The payroll number was likely hit by bad weather in January, when storms forced people to stay home.

The December payroll number was revised to show an increase of 121,000 jobs, from a previous estimate of 103,000. The U.S. unemployment rate has fallen for two straight months, but still has been at or above 9% since May 2009–the longest stretch at such an elevated level since the Second World War.

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