The U.S. economy added 678,000 jobs in February, shattering Wall Street expectations as the unemployment picture also inched "closer to its pre-pandemic self," CNBC and The Wall Street Journal report.
Specifically, the jobless rate fell to 3.8 percent from 4 percent, beating estimates. As for job gains, economists had projected an increase of 440,000. February's actual 678,000 total is now the "biggest monthly gain" in job growth since July, CNBC notes.
The Labor Department in its latest report also revised the total gains for December and January to a stronger-than-initially reported 588,000 jobs and 481,000 jobs, respectively, per the Journal.
"I don't often write this, but: This was an unambiguously strong jobs report," said economist and New York Times contributor Justin Wolfers on Twitter. "Strong payrolls growth. Similar strength in the household survey. Broad-based gains. People getting back to work. Robust revisions. And signs that wage growth may not be the constraint some had feared."
Wage growth was fairly flat in February, possibly a sign "inflation could be cooling," writes CNBC. It rose just 0.03 percent, compared to 0.5 percent estimates.
The leisure and hospitality sector posted the strongest gains for the month, alongside the health care, construction, and retail sectors, among others, per CNBC.
"The trend for jobs is clearly upward after a wintertime surge of omicron cases, while exacting a large human toll, left little imprint on employment," CNBC writes.
The labor force also grew by 304,000 in February, with the share of people either employed or looking for work rising from 62.2 percent to 62.3, notes the Journal.
"If we see more numbers like this moving forward," said Nick Bunker, an economist at employment site Indeed, "we can be optimistic about this year."