U.S. employers added a robust 288,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent.
The number of jobs created in May was revised up to 224,000 from the original 217,000.
Economists have forecast that employers added 215,000 jobs in June, according to FactSet. Analysts had also forecast that the unemployment rate would remain unchanged at 6.3 percent.
Private payrolls provider ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 281,000 jobs in June. But the ADP numbers cover only private businesses, and they often diverge from the government's more comprehensive report
In May, the economy surpassed its jobs total in December 2007, when the Great Recession started. But economists at the liberal Economic Policy Institute estimate that 7 million more jobs would have been needed to keep up with population growth.
Many economists predicted late last year that the steady but tepid recovery would accelerate in 2014. The momentum built over the past four years will finally unleash more hiring and higher wages, they said.
But the economy actually shrank in the first three months of this year at an annual rate of 2.9 percent. That's the sharpest quarterly contraction since the recession. Ferocious winter storms and freezing temperatures caused factories to close and prevented consumers from visiting shopping malls and auto dealers.
Yet the winter failed to freeze hiring. This should help to speed economic growth because more jobs lead to more paychecks to spend.
Most economists say annualized growth is tracking 3 percent to 3.5 percent in the current second quarter. Growth over the course of the entire year should be closer to 2 percent for the entire year, roughly similar to the 1.9 percent increase in gross domestic product achieved last year.