Washington (Agencies): The unemployment rate in the US dropped to nine per cent last month which has surprised many analysts expecting joblessness to remain above 9.4 per cent.

The Labour Department in its report said that January unemployment rate was the lowest since April 2009 and coincides with other indicators that the economic recovery is gaining a sounder footing.  Over eight million jobs disappeared during the slowdown that began in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009, the deepest and longest economic downturn since the Depression. 

Despite the unexpected drop in the unemployment rate, a separate Labour Department survey showed only 36,000 net new jobs were created in January, though that report did not include people who were self-employed. 

US employers announced the elimination of 38,519 positions last month, placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said on Wednesday. 

The total was sharply down from the 71,428 layoffs announced in January 2010, while most of last month's job cuts were in the public and non-profit sectors.