Employment in the U.S. soared by much more than expected in the month of February, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Friday.

The Labor Department said employment surged up by 273,000 jobs in February, matching the upwardly revised spike in January.

Economists had expected employment to increase by about 175,000 jobs compared to the jump of 225,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

The much stronger than expected job growth reflected notable job gains in a variety of sectors, including health care and social assistance, food services and drinking places, government, construction, professional and technical services, and financial activities.

Paul Ashworth, Chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, said the strong job growth confirms the U.S. economy was in very good shape before the coronavirus hit.

“The unseasonably warm weather appears to have played a role again – with construction employment increasing by 42,000 and food services employment up by 53,000,” Ashworth said.

He added, “At first glance, the 45,000 gain in government employment suggests that Census hiring also played a big role, but most of those gains were in state education, with the Census accounting for only 7,000.”

The report also said unemployment rate unexpectedly edged down to 3.5 percent in February from 3.6 percent in January. The unemployment rate had been expected to remain unchanged.

The drop in the unemployment rate came as the household survey measure of employment increased by 45,000 persons, while the labor force shrank by 60,000 persons.

The Labor Department said average hourly employee earnings rose $0.09 or 0.3 percent to $28.53 in February. Annual wage growth slowed to 3.0 percent in February from 3.1 percent in January.

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