Nonfarm payrolls increased by 235,000 in February and the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in the first full month of President Donald Trump's term, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
Average hourly earnings increased by a healthy 2.8 percent on an annualized basis.
Construction led the way, growing by 58,000, the most in almost a decade, while manufacturing also posted strong gains with 28,000 new jobs.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected the economy to add 190,000 jobs and the unemployment rate to tick down to 4.7 percent. That contrasts with the upwardly revised January numbers of 238,000 new positions and an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent.
The numbers come amid heightened expectations for economic growth as the president pushes an agenda of tax cuts, less regulation and higher domestic spending. Earlier in the week, ADP and Moody's Analytics reported that private payrolls increased by a surprising 298,000.
"You're getting more strength in the labor market than I would have anticipated," said John Canally, chief economic strategist at LPL Financial. "There's been a burst in animal spirits since Trump was elected."
The total of employed Americans surged by 447,000 to 152.5 million, the highest ever.
Friday's BLS report sets the stage for next week's Fed meeting, at which the Federal Open Market Committee is widely expected to approve a quarter-point hike in its target rate to 0.75 percent to 1 percent.
"Hard to see any negative signs in this report," said Tony Bedikian, head of global markets for Citizens Bank. "This should put the Fed strongly on the table for next week's potential tightening."
Stock market futures moved higher following the jobs report, indicating a gain approaching 100 points for the Dow at the open, though government bond yields edged lower.
"The market may begin to think about four hikes this year instead of three," Canally added.
The closely watched labor force participation rate edged higher to 63 percent, its best showing since March. A broader view of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons dropped to 9.2 percent, its lowest level since April 2008.
Other areas of job gains were professional and business services (37,000), private educational services (29,000), health care (27,000) and mining (8,000).
Retail saw a decline of 26,000.
The job gains skewed toward full time, which added 326,000 new positions, while there were 149,000 new part-time jobs, according to data in the household survey.
Those counted as not in the labor force declined by 176,000 to 94.2 million. The civilian labor force grew by 340,000 to just over 160 million.