The rise in jobs added was above forecasts of an increase of 210,000 jobs, the Labor Department said. The unemployment rate of 8.3% is still the lowest in nearly three years and comfortably below the level of much of last year. Separately, the trade deficit reached the highest in more than three years. US employment has been steadily rising over the past six months. The number of new jobs being created has picked up pace to be consistently above 200,000 in each of the past three months, fuelling hopes that the US economy recovery is gathering pace and is less likely to need further economic stimulus. Earlier, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said the US may exceed a previous forecast of 1.8% growth as the recovery picks up speed. On Friday, new figures showed the US trade deficit higher than expected in January. High oil prices and renewed demand helped to push imports to a record high of $233.4bn, according to the Commerce Department, with imports from China rising 4.7% to $34.4bn. The trade gap was $52.6bn in January, the highest since October 2008, and its estimate of December\'s trade deficit was revised up to to $50.4bn from a previous figure of $48.8bn. Employment in February rose in professional and businesses services by 82,000, with half of that in temporary help services. Jobs growth also occurred in health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and mining. Manufacturing added 31,000 jobs, with most car makers been taking on new workers and adding shifts and overtime to meet pent-up demand after production was disrupted early last year following the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. Another positive note was provided by a revision to data showing that the economy had created 61,000 more jobs in December and January combined than was previously estimated. Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics, said the figures added to evidence that the US jobs market had turned a corner: \"Overall, another very strong payroll report and there\'s every chance that March will bring more of the same.\" The number of people without a job remained all but unchanged last month, at 12.8 million, and the number of those working part time because their hours have been cut back or because they have been unable to find a full-time job was also stuck at 8.1 million. Unemployment is one of the most hotly contested topics among the candidates battling to win November\'s presidential election. An improvement in the figures is seen as favourable to the incumbent, President Barack Obama.