Employers added a better-than-expected 203,000 jobs in November,
continuing a solid string of payroll gains and offering further evidence
of a strengthening economic recovery.
The unemployment rate fell
to 7% from 7.3%, the lowest in five years, the Labor Department said
Friday. Unemployment rose in October because the federal government
furloughed about 450,000 workers during the 16-day shutdown. The jobless
rate, in turn, was expected to fall in November as those employees were
back at work.
ANALYSIS: Rates are going higher but they're still low
a survey by Action Economics, economists' median forecast was that
180,000 jobs were added last month. Expectations for the closely-watched
job numbers were raised after the government reported that jobless
claims fell to a three-month low last week and a private payroll survey
showed businesses added 215,000 jobs in November.
strength of the jobs recovery has definitely increased to a somewhat
higher gear," says Pat O'Keefe, a former senior Labor official and
director of economic research at Cohn Reznick.
The solid report is
sure to add to speculation about whether the Federal Reserve will begin
to taper its economy-boosting program of monthly bond purchases at its
Dec. 17-18 meeting. O'Keefe believes the Fed will hold off, noting much
of the unemployment rate decline since September is a result of
Americans dropping out of the labor force rather than job growth. And
some sectors, such as retail, are still adding just modestly to
payrolls, he says.
Still, the economy and labor market are picking
up despite ongoing budget standoffs in Washington. Paul Ashworth of
Capital Economics says the November report "gives the Fed all the
evidence it needs to begin tapering" this month.
196,000 jobs last month. Federal, state and local governments added
7,000. Strong gains in transportation and warehousing, health care and
manufacturing led the job growth.
Job gains for September and
October were revised up by a total 8,000. September's were revised to
175,000 from 163,000 and October's to 200,000 from 204,000.
economy has gained more than 2 million jobs so far this year, the most
since January-November, 2005. Payroll additions in the past four months
now average 204,000.
Other barometers of the labor market last
month were also encouraging. The average workweek rose to 34.5 hours
from 34.4 hours. Employers often pile more hours on existing workers
before adding new ones. And average hourly earnings rose four cents to
Another possible signal of future hiring is that the
number of temporary employees increased by 16,000. Companies typically
bring on contingent workers before adding to permanent staff.
broader measure of joblessness called the underemployment rate - which
includes part-time employees who prefer full-time jobs and those who've
given up looking for work, as well as the unemployed -fell to 13.2% from
13.8%. Much of that decline was likely due to the return of furloughed
The economy and labor market have proved
resilient lately despite the shutdown and the prospect of another
Washington budget battle over the next month.
This week, the
government revised up its estimate for third-quarter economic growth to
an annual rate of 3.6% from 2.8% and measures of recent manufacturing
activity and home sales both picked up more than anticipated.
November, education and health services led job gains with 40,000.
Professional and business services added 35,000, transportation and
warehousing, 30,000 and retailers, 22,000. Manufacturing and
construction, both key sources of middle-income jobs that laid off
millions of workers in the recession, are showing signs of strength.
Manufacturers added 27,000 jobs as the effects of the European recession
and federal spending cuts ease. And construction firms added 17,000
jobs amid a continuing housing recovery.