Also this week, automakers said sales slipped 3 percent in January. And last week, a measure of signed contracts to buy homes fell sharply, according to the National Association of Realtors.
On a more hopeful note, a survey of service sector companies, including retailers, banks and restaurants, found that they grew faster in January than in December.
Friday's report showed that some higher-paying industries added jobs in January. Factories contributed 21,000. Professional and technical services, which includes architects and engineers, added 20,000.
But health care employment was mostly unchanged for a second straight month after adding 17,000 jobs a month last year. Retailers cut 12,900, the most in 18 months.
And in January, government shed 29,000 jobs, mostly in education and the Postal Service. That was the biggest drop in government employment in 15 months.
Average hourly earnings rose 5 cents to $24.21, Friday's report said. Average hourly pay has risen 1.9 percent in the past year, slightly ahead of the 1.5 percent inflation rate.
AP Economics Writers Josh Boak and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report.
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