Employers added 288,000 jobs in April as milder weather continued to lift the labor market from a winter slump.
That's the most in more than two years.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% from 6.7% -- the lowest since September 2008, the Labor Department said Friday.
Economists surveyed by Action Economics estimated that 210,000 jobs were added last month.
Businesses added 273,000 jobs. Federal, state and local governments added 15,000.
Also encouraging is that job gains for February and March were revised up by a total 36,000. February's increase was revised to 222,000 from 197,000 and March's to 203,000 from 192,000.
Some analysts expected a breakout month for job gains after payroll processor ADP's survey this week showed businesses added 220,000 jobs in April. Other economic indicators also have picked up lately, including factory output, retail sales and consumer confidence.
Employers added nearly 200,000 jobs in both February and March despite at least some lingering weather effects, leading many economists to expect even bigger gains last month.
Some analysts also expected a healthy bounce-back effect after the government said this week that the economy grew just 0.1% in the first quarter.
Many economists expect the economy and job market to accelerate this year because of higher household wealth and reduced debt, as well as more modest federal government spending cuts.