US Jobless Rate At Lowest For Five Years
The unemployment rate in the United States dropped to 7% in November, the lowest figure for five years.
The sharp drop in the rate, from 7.3% in October, was unexpected and raised the odds that the Federal Reserve could soon begin moving away from its huge stimulus plan.
Meanwhile, the number of non-farm jobs in November went up by a net total of 203,000, which beat analysts' expectations.
The strengthening job market is likely to fuel speculation that the Federal Reserve may scale back its bond purchases when it meets later this month.
The economy has now generated an average of 204,000 jobs from August through November. That is up from 159,000 a month from April through July.
Many of the November job gains were in higher-paying industries. Manufacturers added 27,000 positions, the most since March 2012. Construction firms gained 17,000. The two industries have created a combined 113,000 jobs in the past four months.
Another month of robust hiring follows other positive economic news.
The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.6% in the July-September quarter, the fastest growth since early 2012, the government said.
Still, nearly half that gain came from businesses building their stockpiles. Consumer spending grew at the slowest pace since late 2009.
Greater hiring could support healthier spending as job growth has a dominant influence over much of the economy.
If hiring continues at the current pace, a virtuous cycle starts to build. More jobs usually lead to higher wages, more spending and faster growth.
Roughly half the jobs that were added in the six months through October were in four low-wage industries - retail, hotels, restaurants and entertainment, temp jobs and home health care workers.
The Fed has pegged its stimulus efforts to the unemployment rate and chairman Ben Bernanke has said the Fed will ease its monthly purchases of $85bn (£51bn) in bonds once hiring has improved consistently.
The bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates low.
The recent economic upturn has been surprising. Many economists expected the government shutdown in October to hobble growth, yet the economy motored along without much interruption.
Early reports on holiday shopping have been disappointing.
The National Retail Federation said sales during the Thanksgiving weekend - probably the most important stretch for retailers - fell for the first time since the group began keeping track in 2006.