A category called professional and business services, which includes better-paying jobs such as engineers, accountants and architects, along with some lower-paying jobs such as temporary workers, added 79,000 jobs in February. That was the most in a year.
Retailers, though, lost 4,100 jobs, transportation and warehousing firms 3,600.
Despite February's solid overall gain, the monthly average of 129,000 jobs that employers have added from December through February marks the weakest three-month stretch since mid-2012. It's down from a 225,000 average for the previous three months.
The government revised up its estimate of job gains for December and January by a combined 25,000.
Friday's report makes it likely that the Federal Reserve will continue reducing its monthly bond purchases at its next meeting March 18-19. The Fed is buying Treasury and mortgage bonds to try to keep long-term loan rates low to spur growth. Fed policymakers have reduced their monthly bond purchases by $10 billion at each of their past two meetings to $65 billion.
On Monday, Karen Wilson will start her first full-time job with benefits in nearly eight years. As a data-entry clerk for Peoria County, Ill., she will process traffic tickets, drunk-driving violations and other citations.
After a layoff in 2006, the 42-year-old worked several part-time jobs and got financial aid to return to school. Her car broke down last Thanksgiving night after accumulating 153,000 miles. She's had to wait for a bus in freezing temperatures.
Still, things are looking up. Though her new job pays just $12 an hour, "it's a foot in the door, and it can lead to so many other things," Wilson said. "I will actually get a lunch hour."
AP Economics Writers Josh Boak and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report.
Contact Chris Rugaber on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber .