WASHINGTON — Even after the most vigorous three-month hiring spree in 17 years, U.S. employers are showing few signs of letting up.

Job growth for February, to be reported Friday, might not match the furious pace of November through January, when 1 million positions were added. Harsh winter weather likely discouraged some hiring.

Yet economists foresee a solid job gain of 240,000 and a drop in unemployment to a near-normal 5.6 percent – down from the peak of 10 percent in 2009 and evidence of a job market that continues to outshine others around the world.

“People are pretty optimistic about the U.S. economy, and they’re hiring,” said Frank Friedman, interim CEO of Deloitte, the consulting firm that counts 80 percent of the Fortune 500 as clients.

A bright outlook among employers has translated into a robust average of 268,000 jobs added monthly over the past year. That means there are 3.2 million more Americans earning paychecks now than at the start of 2014. That additional income, along with sharply lower gas prices, has left more Americans able to spend.

The steady hiring may also finally be forcing wages up. Average hourly earnings rose 0.5 percent in January, the most in six years. Economists did caution against reading too much into one month’s figure. Most expect a more modest average wage gain in February.

Friday’s jobs report will come less than two weeks before the next policy meeting of the Federal Reserve, which is considering when to raise interest rates from record lows. Tim Hopper, chief economist at TIAA-CREF, suggested that the strengthening job market and tentative signs of pay increases give the Fed room to move toward raising short-term rates.