US employers add 273,000 jobs in February, unemployment rate 3.5%

Notable job gains occurred in the health care and social assistance sector.

The U.S. economy added a higher-than-expected 273,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 3.5%, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday.

"February's jobs report exceeded expectations, revealing strong jobs growth in a rearview mirror glance at a job market not yet touched by the unfolding coronavirus outbreak," Daniel Zhao, the senior economist at Glassdoor, told ABC News.

Other areas that saw job growth included professional and technical services (32,000 jobs added) and financial activities (26,000 jobs added).

Last month the average hourly earnings increased by 9 cents to $28.52. Overall average hourly earnings have increased by 3% over the past 12 months.

Zhao noted that wage growth was a "black spot in today’s report, dropping to a disappointing 3 percent and continuing a deceleration from early 2019."

"Despite the hot job market, American workers have yet to see wages accelerate," he said. "If things don’t change in the coming months, American workers may not see big wage gains in 2020."

The strong jobs report exceeded many economists' expectations but does not take into account any impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.

"Importantly, the potential impact of the COVID-19 virus should not be reflected in the employment report, as the survey week was in the middle of the month -- before the coronavirus would have any impact," David Berson, the chief economist at Nationwide, told ABC News.

"While the outbreak is likely to disrupt business operations, the state of the labor market in the months ahead will depend largely on how policymakers and businesses respond to the evolving outbreak," Zhao pointed out.

Friday's jobs report also included revised figures for December and January. An additional 85,000 jobs were added in those two months.