The United States added 257,000 jobs last month and the number of jobs created in November and December was revised sharply higher.January was the 11th consecutive month in which more than 200,000 jobs were created – the best run since 1994.
The Labor Department said on Friday that an additional 147,000 jobs were added in both November and December.
That brought the total to 414,000 and 329,000 respectively.
An average of 336,000 jobs have been created a month for the past three months – the best three-month pace in 17 years and underlining the strength of the economic recovery in America.
A year ago, the three-month average stood at just 197,000.
The unemployment rate, which comes from a separate data set, edged higher to 5.7% as the number of people working or looking for a job rose slightly.
The rapid rise in the pace of hiring helped average hourly wages to rise 12 cents to $24.75 in January – the biggest gain since September 2008. In the past year, hourly pay has increased by 2.2%.
Analysis: Andrew Walker, Economics Correspondent
Another pretty upbeat month for the US jobs market, with more than a quarter of a million new jobs being added.
But it is still supported by extremely easy money. The Federal Reserve’s main interest rate target has been practically zero for six years.
It might start to raise it towards more normal levels this year, but it will be a gradual process even the Fed does make a start.
And the US is still well below the percentage of the population in jobs that it managed before the financial crisis. For men aged 16 to 64 the figure now is 76.5% compared with 81% in mid-2008.
US Federal Reserve remains ‘patient’‘On fire’
Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics, said the US labour market was now “on fire”, adding that the data would increase pressure on the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates mid-year.
There are now an additional 3.2 million Americans in the workforce than there were 12 months ago, helping to bolster the economy by increasing consumer spending.
A more buoyant jobs market, along with the significant fall in petrol prices in recent months, helped push US consumer confidence to its highest level in a decade last month.
Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise, said: “It’s certainly good news: 2015 is going to be the year of the American consumer. With job growth being strong, we’re going to see a pickup in wages and salaries.”
Tom Porcelli, chief US economist at RBC Capital Markets, said: “By any measure this was an extremely good report [which] continues to add evidence that the consumer has the potential to continue to move along at this very constructive pace.”
US car sales rose by 14% in January compared with the same month in 2014, making it the best January for the industry in nine years, according to Autodata figures.