The national unemployment rate dropped to 8.9 percent in February, down from 9 percent in January.
U.S. employers added a net 192,000 jobs in the month.
Private-sector employers created 222,000 jobs, while state and local government employment fell by 30,000 -- an indicator of the budget-cutting moves in the cash-strapped public sector.
The numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, released this morning, helped ease some confusion about which direction the job market was going.
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Since a recent low in February 2010, total payroll employment has grown by 1.3 million, or an average of 106,000 per month, the bureau said.
Economists actually wouldn't mind if the jobless rate moved higher. That would indicate that more discouraged workers, who had temporarily stopped job hunting because they didn't think there were any jobs available, have re-entered the job market.
Nonetheless, the numbers were encouraging. Previously reported job creation numbers for January and December were revised upward by 58,000.
The number of unemployed workers was listed at 13.7 million, with 6 million of them defined as long-term unemployed -- out of work for 26 weeks or more.
Some industry breakdowns that showed widespread job gains:Manufacturing, up 33,000Construction, up 33,000Health care, up 34,000Professional and business services, up 47,000
Some of the disappointing numbers:Retail jobs, down 8,000Government, down 30,000
Average hourly earnings for workers were unchanged.