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The U.S. added 288,000 jobs in June, blowing past what economists had been expecting. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

The U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in June, enough to push the unemployment rate down to its lowest level since September 2008.

Economists were expecting the U.S. economy to add 215,000 jobs during the month, in line with the average monthly gain this year of 213,000. Including June's numbers, that brings the 2014 average up to 230,000, well ahead of the average monthly gain of 194,250 last year.

It's the fifth straight month the jobs figure has been higher than 200,000 — a feat that hasn't happened since the technology bubble in the late 1990s.

The latest jobs number also means the U.S. economy officially has more jobs than it did before the recession that started in 2008.

"Since February, this has now become a textbook jobs expansion," said Patrick O'Keefe, director of economic research at the consultancy CohnReznick. "It is both broad and accelerating."

The job gains were broad based and came in many sectors. Factories and manufacturers added 16,000 jobs, while retailers added 40,200 new workers. Financial and insurance firms increased their payrolls by 17,000. Restaurants and bars employed 32,800 more people last month. Only construction, which gained a scant 6,000, appeared to reflect the slow recovery of previous years.

The strong jobs figure is an encouraging sign that the economy is expanding robustly, and has shaken off its weather-related winter doldrums that caused GDP to surprisingly contract in the first quarter.