The U.S. unemployment rate plunged in April to its lowest level since September 2008 as employers added 288,000 jobs, the most in two years.

The figures are a clear sign that the economy is picking up after a brutal winter slowed growth.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent in March. But the drop occurred because the number of people working or seeking work fell sharply. People not seeking work aren't  counted as unemployed.

Employers also added more jobs in February and March than previously estimated. The job totals for those two months were revised up by a combined 36,000.

Job creation is accelerating: Employers added an average of 238,000 jobs the past three months. That's up from 167,000 in the previous three.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is cheering the report. Pelosi cited 50 consecutive months of private sector job growth and said the economy continues to move forward steadily.  

The California Democrat accused Republicans of standing in the way of a more robust recovery. Pelosi said Congress must do more to create an economy that "works for everyone, not just the wealthy."  

House Speaker John Boehner has a mixed reaction to the latest jobs report.  

The Ohio Republican called it welcome news but said he is troubled by a decline in workforce participation.

Despite the strong numbers, Boehner noted that more than 800-thousand Americans left the workforce last month. He also blamed the White House and Senate Democrats for ignoring House Republican bills designed to boost job creation.    

Chief White House economist Jason Furman said the report exceeded expectations.

Furman insisted that more "can and should be done" to boost the ongoing recovery from the deep recession.  

He argued that Congress should raise the minimum wage and extend long-term unemployment benefits.  Furman said both moves would pump more money into the economy.  

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.