US employers hired more workers in February than in any month since May last year and the unemployment rate fell to a near two-year low, raising hopes the economic recovery has gathered critical momentum.
Nonfarm payrolls increased 192,000, the Labour Department said on Friday, above market expectations for 185,000 jobs. Data for December and January was revised to show 58,000 more jobs created than previously estimated.
The peak of monthly employment last May was when payrolls were being boosted by government hiring for a census.
The unemployment rate dipped to 8.9 per cent, the lowest since April 2009, from nine per cent in January as more people reported finding work.
"We have moved into the expansion phase of the economic cycle and the economy is self-sustaining," said Brian Levitt, an economist at OppenheimerFunds in New York.
Still, February's bounce in employment after payrolls were depressed by extreme weather in January is unlikely to sway the Federal Reserve from its ultra-easy monetary policies.
The jobless rate has dropped 0.9 percentage point since November.
The rate is derived from a survey of households, while the job creation figure comes from a separate survey of employers. The household survey showed more people were employed in February.
City A.M. Reporter