It was the third consecutive month the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent and 15th consecutive reporting period the rate was 9.5 percent or higher. That is the longest such stretch since record keeping on the statistic began in 1948.
The gain in payroll was much higher than economists' expectations of an increase of 60,000.
President Obama hailed the report but acknowledged the good news wasn't "good enough" given the continued high percentage of joblessness. Obama said he is "open to any idea, any proposal" that would create jobs and bring down the unemployment rate, warning Republicans, who now have control of the House of Representatives, "We can't spend the next two years mired in gridlock."
In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said people were "angry, frustrated, and disappointed."
He called for an extension of unemployment benefits and an investment in "rebuilding roads, bridges, schools and clean energy systems."
The rise in the number of jobs marked the first time since May, when data were affected by thousands of temporary U.S. Census Bureau jobs, that job growth was reported.
The private sector added 159,000 jobs, easily offsetting the 8,000 loss of government positions.
It was also the first time, discounting the Census employment bubble, since December 2007 that the U.S. economy gained enough positions to offset the natural growth in the employable population.
The bureau said, however, the number of unemployed was still 14.8 million, little changed from recent months. Also 6.2 million have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks.
The data indicate gains were made in temporary help services (35,000), retail (28,000) and healthcare (24,000).