US employment rose more than expected in April.
The latest US non-farm payrolls show that 165,000 jobs were created last month. Economists had been predicting a figure closer to 145,000.
The unemployment rate is now at its lowest level in four years, at 7.5%.
The strong increase in the jobs figures provided a boost to the markets. In New York, the Dow Jones index jumped above the 15,000 level for the first time in history before slipping back slightly.
The drop in the unemployment rate reflected an increase in employment, rather than people leaving the workforce.
The US Labor Department also revised its figures for March and February upwards.
The February number was revised up to 332,000, the best monthly gain since May 2010.
March non-farm payrolls were revised upwards by 50,000 to 138,000.
Giving the Obama administration’s view of the figures, Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said: “It is critical that we remain focused on pursuing policies to speed job creation and expand the middle class, as we continue to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.”
Joe Manimbo, market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions, said the numbers were “surprisingly positive”.
“This shows the job market and the economy in general appear to be more resilient than investors had feared,” he added.