Job creation ramped up somewhat in February, posting a better-than-expected gain of 175,000 despite expectations that weather would keep the count low. The unemployment rate edged higher to 6.7 percent, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Economists polled by Reuters expected the U.S. economy to have created 149,000 jobs in February, up from 129,000, which was revised higher from 113,000.
Employment growth had waned over the past two months, and February's number, while an improvement, remains below where it had been for the past year, during which monthly job creation has averaged 189,000.
A separate measure of unemployment, which includes discouraged and underemployed workers, edged lower to 12.6 percent from 12.7 percent.
"This sort of number today helps [to] start fuel sentiment towards growth going forward a little bit. And that change in people's expectations for growth I think is a bigger factor for equities than the absolute growth itself," Bessemer Trust CIO Rebecca Patterson told CNBC.
(Read more: Democrats on the jobs report: Phew!)
Traders initially cheered the upside surprise on the nonfarm payrolls report, sending stocks higher at the open, though the market moved lower later. Government bond yields also jumped, with the benchmark 10-year note breaking the 2.8 percent barrier for the highest level since mid-January.
"The February jobs report is something of a perfect storm for the U.S. economy and is likely to further fuel bullish fervor across the stock market," Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at Interactive Brokers, said in a note. "The latest strength in the stock market appears to have been driven by hopes that what the winter took away, the spring will reclaim in terms of a jobs rebound. Today's employment report compounds such expectations. "