WASHINGTON - US employers created more than 200,000 jobs for the fourth straight month in May, showing the country can still muster solid growth despite the weakness in Europe and other regions.

The US economy added a net 217,000 positions last month, nearly all from private companies, the Labor Department reported Friday. It took the total number of working Americans to a new high, surmounting for the first time all of the 8.7 million jobs lost during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. But there was still no progress in increasing the very low rate of participation in the workforce, which held at 62.8 percent, compared to 66 percent on the eve of the recession. That suggested that the economy still has far to go to reach full employment. Some 9.8 million people remained on the jobless rolls, slightly up from April. The unemployment rate held for a second month at 6.3 percent, after falling sharply from 6.7 percent in March, mainly due to data showing a large number of people leaving the workforce.

Even so, economists said the May numbers were strong enough to suggest that the economy is picking up speed after the 1.0 percent contraction of the first quarter of the year. Some predicted even stronger job creation numbers in the second half of the year.  “This is a solid report, marking four straight gains over 200,000; that hasn’t happened for more than 14 years,” said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.