The US economy created 96,000 jobs in August, according to official figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is less than was expected.
However, the figure was lower than expected and revisions to June and July data mean that 41,000 fewer jobs were created than previously reported.
Analysts had expected non-farm payrolls to grow by 125,000 last month.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.1%, compared with 8.3% in July, but only because more people gave up looking for work.
Employment increased in food services and drinking places, professional and technical services and healthcare during August, the Bureau said.
Employment growth has averaged 139,000 a month in 2012, the Bureau said, compared with an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011.
The percentage of Americans who either have a job or who are looking for one fell to 63.5%, the lowest participation rate since 1981.
The weak figures could put pressure on President Barack Obama in his re-election campaign, given than rival Mitt Romney has put jobs at the centre of the national debate.
Mitt Romney described the figures as “more of the same for middle-class families who are suffering through the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression”.
He claims his economic plan will create 12 million new jobs by the end of his first term.
The figures are also seen as making it more likely that the US Federal Reserve will provide further economic stimulus measures in the form of quantitative easing, as hinted at by chairman Ben Bernanke in a speech on 31 August.
A survey released on Tuesday indicated that growth in the US manufacturing sector remained weak.
The Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index came in at 51.5 in August compared with 51.4 in July. A reading above 50 indicates growth.
Figures released last week showed that the US economy grew at an annualized pace of 1.7% in the second quarter of the year.