The economy added 143,000 nonfarm jobs in January, a surprisingly strong performance that essentially wipes out the past two months' contraction, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.7%, the government said.
The rate of increase, more than double the consensus expectation of economists, was the highest in more than two years and sent stock futures soaring. Treasury bonds sold off on the news.
There was some concern that the January number wasn't 100% clean because the month typically sees a big seasonal adjustment for laid-off retail workers. Because fewer retail workers were hired ahead of the holidays, some economists argued that the adjustment was probably too high and didn't reflect real job growth. The Labor Department said retail employment rose 101,000 in January.
Service employment rose 143,000 in January after falling 82,000 the previous month. Construction employment rose 21,000, while manufacturers gave up a smaller-than-expected 16,000 jobs.
Economists had expected the unemployment rate to hold at 6%.