Analysts surprised as America adds 236,000 new jobs in February

The American economy added 236,000 new jobs in February, according to government figures, and substantially more than analysts' forecast of 165,000 jobs.

The U.S. jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent last month, the lowest figure since December 2008, from 7.9 percent in January when the country created 157,000 jobs.

Job numbers have jumped by an average of 195,000 a month in the last three months.

There were an additional 73,000 jobs in the professional and business services sector, while the construction industry hired 48,000 employees. The health care industry added 32,000 jobs and the retail sector added 24,000 new staff.

But the number of long-term unemployed – out of a job for at least 27 weeks – was unchanged, and accounted for about 40 percent of the jobless total.

"Progress in the labor market is unmistakable. The economy is producing more than twice as many jobs as it did at the low point in the second quarter of last year," said Joseph Trevisani, chief market strategist at Worldwidemarkets.

However he warned of ongoing slow economic growth, with the economy growing in the October-December quarter at an annualized rate of just 0.1 percent.

Although stronger job numbers will lead to a rise in spending at stores, analysts are concerned that a series of public spending cuts that officially began on March 1 after President Obama and Congress failed to reach agreement on expenditure reductions and tax hikes will constrain consumer spending.

Obama signed into effect spending cuts of US$85 billion which, he noted, if carried out, would slow U.S. economic growth by 0.5 percent and cost 750,000 jobs.