Strong 3 months of hiring as US adds 277,000 jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States added 227,000 jobs in February, the latest display of the breadth and strength of the economic recovery. The country has put together the most impressive three months of job growth since before the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent. It was the first time in six months it didn’t fall, and that was because a half-million Americans started looking for work. In the past two months, almost a million have started looking.

“I have more optimism,” said Freda Bratcher, 54, who had worked as a substance abuse counselor but has been unemployed 16 months. She had stopped searching, but showed up Friday at a Miami career center after some of her friends landed jobs.

“There’s something out there for me,” she said. “And if other people are getting hired, then why not me?”

The Labor Department, in its monthly jobs report, said Friday that December and January, already two of the best months for jobs since the recession, were even stronger than first estimated.

January job growth was revised higher by 41,000 to 284,000. December job growth was raised by 20,000 to 223,000. The overall job growth for February of 227,000 beat economists’ estimate of 210,000.

“It’s a very strong report,” said Bob Baur, chief global economist at Principal Global Investors, an asset management company. “I could hardly find anything not to like in it.”

Since the beginning of December, the country has added 734,000 jobs. The only three-month stretch that was better since the recession ended was March through May 2010, when the government was hiring tens of thousands of temporary workers for the census.

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