U.S. employers added 236,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January, the Labor Department reported. That's far better than the 156,000 job gains and unemployment rate of 7.8 percent that economists surveyed by FactSet expected.
The strong job growth shows that employers are confident about the economy despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.
Optimism that hiring is picking up has been one of the factors bolstering the stock market this year. Stocks have also gained on evidence that the housing market is recovering and company earnings continue to growing.
The Dow has gained 9.5 percent this year and is trading at record levels, having broken its previous record of 14,164 on Tuesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 is up 8.4 percent since the start of the year, but remains about 1.2 percent short of its all-time high close of 1,565 set Oct. 9, 2007.
Twenty stocks in the 30-member Dow index advanced, with McDonald's logging the biggest percentage gain in early trading. The index is on course to advance for a third straight week.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, rose to 2.05 percent from 2 percent Thursday.
Among stocks making big moves;
Pandora gained $2.20, or 20 percent, to $13.93 after the Internet radio company issued a strong profit forecast and said its mobile business was improving. Pandora also said its CEO, Joseph Kennedy, would leave.
Skullcandy fell $1.35 to $5.37, a loss of 20 percent, after the headphone maker projected a big loss and drop in sales for the current quarter, and said this year's results will likely be worse than in 2012.