A surprisingly strong jobs report for February sparked renewed faith in the economic recovery despite looming federal spending cuts and the recent increase in payroll taxes and gasoline prices.
Unemployment fell to 7.7 percent last month, from 7.9 percent in January.
It was the lowest rate of joblessness since December 2008, when the financial crisis and recession first pushed unemployment above 7 percent.
February produced 236,000 more jobs than were lost, the report said, higher than many optimistic forecasts had expected.
Much of the increase came in key areas such as construction work, which posted its best hiring in six years in part thanks to a recovery in housing activity.