The hiring rate climbed in the US last month as virus cases cut short. Moreover, the vaccination drive gained steam and restaurants and bars brought back workers.
Employers added 379,000 jobs in February, snapping a two-month streak of minimal gains.
The growth was more substantial than analysts had expected, but the activity did not significantly lessen the jobless rate.
It dipped from 6.3% to 6.2%, reflecting the millions that reside out of work because of the virus.
“This number is a wonder, but it’s essentially all about the reopening boost to the jobs market arriving quicker than expected,” said Brian Coulton, chief economist at Fitch Ratings.
“The leisure and transportation sector accounted for a very high share of the job gains in the private sector. As the government eased social distancing restrictions,” he added. “Stripping those sectors out, the gains were much more subdued.”
Roughly 10 million people are jobless – almost double the number a year ago before the virus provoked widespread lockdowns and social distancing, the Labor Department said.
That count does not include the millions more that have stopped looking for work or identify as employed. But those who are not working because of the pandemic.
Minorities and low-wage workers have been particularly hard hit. While the jobless rate fell for most groups last month, it rose among black workers from 9.2% to 9.9%.
Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve chairman, said that he expected hiring to pick up in coming months on Thursday, as the virus abates and authorities ease restrictions on activity. But he said it was unlikely the US would return to its pre-pandemic levels this year.
President Joe Biden is pushing a $1.9tn (£1.4tn) package of aid intended to provide support to the struggling economy’s jobless and sectors.
Republicans say the amount is needlessly large, pointing to data that suggests the economy is on the mend.
But Democrats in Congress have said they hope to pass the plan by mid-month.