Healthcare created 320,600 new jobs in 2012 and 296,900 new jobs in 2011.
Nearly 14.5 million people worked in the healthcare sector in February, with more than 4.8 million of those jobs at hospitals, and more than 6.4 million jobs in ambulatory services, which includes more than 2.4 million jobs in physicians' offices.
BLS data from January and February are preliminary and may be revised considerably in the coming months.
In the larger economy, the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 7.7% in February, the lowest rate since December 2008, with 236,000 new jobs reported for the month. Those jobs were largely clustered in the professional and business services sector (73,000), construction (48,000), healthcare, (32,000), and retail trade (24,000).
However, public sector jobs dropped by 10,000 and the BLS noted that the labor force shrank by 130,000 people owing largely to retirements and "discouraged workers" who can't find work and have stopped looking.
Even with the strong gains in February, BLS said 12 million people were unemployed for the month, which is a slight improvement from January's measure. The number of long-term unemployed, defined as those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer, was little changed at 4.8 million in February, and represented 40.2% of the unemployed.