The labor market roared ahead in April as milder weather helped employers add 288,000 jobs — the most in more than two years.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% from 6.7% — the lowest since September 2008, the Labor Department said Friday.
Economists surveyed by Action Economics estimated that 210,000 jobs were added last month.
Businesses added 273,000 jobs, led by strong gains in professional and business services, retail and restaurants, and construction. Federal, state and local governments added 15,000.
Job gains for February and March were revised up by a total 36,000. February's increase was revised to 222,000 from 197,000 and March's to 203,000 from 192,000.
Some analysts expected outsized job gains after payroll processor ADP's survey this week showed businesses added 220,000 jobs in April. Other economic indicators also have picked up lately, including factory output, retail sales and consumer confidence.
Some other labor market indicators in Friday's report were also strong. The number of temporary employees increased by 24,000, possibly heralding further solid gains in permanent workers.
A broader measure of job-market distress — that includes part-time employees who prefer full-time jobs and those who've given up looking for work, as well as the unemployed — fell to 12.3% from 12.7%.
And the number of Americans out of work at least six months dropped by 287,000 to 3.5 million. That group still represents 35.5% of all those unemployed.
The average work week was unchanged at 34.5 hours after posting a healthy gain in March. Average hourly earnings were also unchanged at $24.31.
Some analysts also expected a healthy bounce-back effect after the government said this week that the economy grew just 0.1% in the first quarter.
Many economists expect the economy and job market to accelerate this year because of higher household wealth and reduced debt, as well as more modest federal government spending cuts.