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But the still slow growth in wages implies that while people who were on the margins are returning to work, the jobs being created are still lower wage. Employment rose in construction, retail trade, professional and business services, manufacturing, financial activities, and mining.

Hourly wages gained 0.2 percent in the month, matching analyst expectations but putting compensation up 2.6 percent over the same month a year ago - ahead of consumer inflation of 2.1 percent.

Wages grew 2.6% compared with a year earlier, a few notches below the pace in January.

The news comes on the heels of reports that US consumers have also enjoyed the largest surge in disposable income since 2015.

The national unemployment rate was unchanged for the month, holding steady at 4.1 percent.

Friday's market reaction stood in stark contrast to last month, when the Dow plunged 666 points on the release of January's job figures, which showed wages growing at their fastest pace since 2009.

There are 39 pages in the Labor Department's February report on the employment situation in the United States, but they can be summed up in four words: The economy is humming.

Strong hiring is drawing people into the USA labor market, a healthy mix that suggests the economy can run strong without overheating and forcing the Federal Reserve to curb growth with aggressive interest-rate increases.

Fed officials are holding a key policy-setting session later this month to evaluate growth, employment and inflation. Employers are likely hard pressed to retain workers in an expanding economy and increased demand for labor.

The other side of this debate might be called the "let it run" camp, who argue that a lot of good things might happen if the Fed and other policymakers move patiently and see whether some of the damage done by the 2008 recession might fix itself in a sufficiently hot economy. Many more people are working, including people who hadn't even been in the labor force. Why the commitment to raising rates when wage growth is restrained, inflation remains low, and - this is key - there are still enough potential workers out there to allow for more than 300,000 new jobs in a single month?

For now, though, investors believe the more modest wage rise signals runaway inflation hasn't arrived.

January's initial estimated wage gain - showing the biggest increase since the recession ended - had stoked concerns in financial markets that bigger than expected paychecks would lead to higher inflation and cause the Fed to shift its plan toward more aggressive rate increases.

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