Hospitals added 18,800 jobs in January, up from 7,400 jobs added in December.
Some of the best forecasters in the country had predicted job gains of about 170,000, a substantially lower figure.
The numbers exclude farm work, which is seasonal and often volatile. "Still, the average for the last three months is now 241,000 jobs - which represents an acceleration in job growth, not a slowdown, as many have been predicting". The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that it lowered annual growth for the January-March quarter by about 0.4 percentage point, to a rate of 2.1 percent.
The new numbers were welcome news for President Donald Trump, whose already-low public approval rating suffered in the wake of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
The shutdown may have also caused the number of people working part-time to jump.
But because of a bill signed into law by President Trump on January 16, federal employees who were furloughed or required to work without pay were guaranteed back pay after the shutdown ended.
The goods producing industry added 72,000 net new jobs, the most since February 2018, fueled by a 52,000 increase in construction employment.
Still, restaurants continued to hire at a faster rate than the overall economy.
The average hourly earnings also increased by 3.2 percent year-on-year.
Still, experts put more stock in yearly averages than monthly ones, warning that unemployment rates for veterans can be volatile because they're based on a smaller sample size.
The government shutdown saw about 380,000 workers furloughed but President Donald Trump signed a law guaranteeing these employees back pay.
Wages are being pushed up across a wide range of job sectors as the unemployment rate remains low and employers try to attract more workers with higher pay. They are counted as employed because they will receive back pay for the period. "U.S. companies have not let up one bit on their hiring in response to risks out there in the world economy".
But in a separate survey of households that's used to calculate the unemployment rate, some of these people were counted as temporarily jobless.
The US economy added 304,000 jobs in January, a surprisingly strong month of hiring as employers continue to bring in new workers. Notable gains occurred in the retail sector (21,000), transportation and warehousing (27,000), and education and health services (55,000).
NOGUCHI: You're right. The longer term trend is what matters.
The string of job growth underscored the long economic expansion since the Great Recession.