The streak of lower unemployment numbers each month ended after five straight months, but held steady in February, the Labor Department announced Friday.
Employers added 227,000 jobs last month, enough to keep unemployment at 8.3 percent for February, the same as it was in January and maintaining a three-year low. This met the expectations of analysts, who predicted a gain of more than 200,000 jobs.
Economists say the last three months have generated more jobs than almost any other stretch since the recession began; the only period better was early 2010.
Another encouraging sign that the economy is on the mend: nearly all of the people who began looking for work in February found a job, the Labor Department said. There was also a significant rise in the number of people job-hunting last month, which suggests a growing optimism in the job market.
Though promising, the economy still has a ways to go before reaching pre-recession numbers. Almost 9 million jobs were lost during the financial crisis, and to date, only 3.5 million jobs have been added back.