Employers hired in February at the fastest pace in almost a year and the unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent - a nearly two-year low.
The economy added 192,000 jobs last month, with factories, professional and business services, education and health care among those expanding employment. Retailers, however, trimmed jobs. State and local governments, wrestling with budget shortfalls, slashed 30,000 jobs, the most since November. Federal government hiring was flat.
Private employers added 222,000 jobs last month, the most since April. That shows that companies are feeling more confident in the economy and about their own financial prospects. And it bolstered hopes that businesses will shift into a more aggressively hiring mode and boost the economic recovery.
The unemployment rate is now at the lowest point since April 2009. It has been falling for three months, down from 9.8 percent in November, marking the sharpest three-month decline since 1983.
"These number can be sustained and built on," economist Joel Naroff at Naroff Economic Advisors. "The economy is recovering, there is no question about it. Businesses are finally taking some of those profits they are earning and putting them back into the work force."