The first set of employment data under President Joe Biden underlines the scale of the economic challenge faced as he seek to push through a $1.9trn COVID-19 recovery package.
The Labor Department has said non-farm payrolls increased by 49,000 jobs last month, slightly down on economist forecasts of 50,000.
Statistics for December were revised to show 227,000 jobs had been lost instead of 140,000 as previously reported.
This drop was the first in eight months and came amid renewed restrictions on businesses like restaurants and bars to curb a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
While the jobless rate fell in January to 6.3% from 6.7%, this is still well above the pre-pandemic level of 3.5% and more than 10 million Americans are unemployed.
The closely watched employment report will strengthen the argument for additional relief money from the government.