Hiring accelerated in February as the nation's economy created a better-than-expected 236,000 jobs and the unemployment rate slipped to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008, government data showed Friday.
The report from the Labor Department is likely to help extend the stock market rally that has pushed the Dow Jones industrial average to its highest level in history.
It is also further evidence that the recovery, which has been sluggish at best, is showing the potential to improve, although plenty of hurdles remain.
"While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides evidence that the recovery that began in mid-2009 is gaining traction," Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement.
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