There were about 125,000 US jobs lost in June, the Labor Department has said, the first time jobs were shed on a month-on-month basis since October.
The overall decline was driven by the departure of 225,000 temporary employees who had been working on the US census in May.
The private sector created 83,000 jobs, data which investors will look to for signs of recovery.
That was an improvement on May but below March and April's totals.
It was also less than analysts had hoped for and less than is needed to keep pace with a growing population.
Reacting to the figures US President Barack Obama said the economy was heading in the right direction, but not fast enough.
The US unemployment rate fell to 9.5% in June from 9.7% in May.
However, that was due to people no longer looking for work and therefore not officially counted as unemployed.
People had left the work force "because they think there's nothing out there", said Nigel Gault, chief US economist at IHS Global Insight.
"It could have been worse, but it wasn't good. It's adding to the evidence that growth has slowed."
The monthly jobs report is one of the most closely watched economic indicators in the US.
High unemployment remains one of the biggest obstacles to strong, sustained growth.
US firms have been reluctant to rehire workers given the uncertain outlook and poor access to credit.
Analysts say that high unemployment has kept consumer confidence low, preventing retail sales from growing rapidly.
Given that consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of US economic activity, there are concerns that until more people are in work, the economy will grow only modestly.