Unemployment fell to the lowest level in five years in November as employers added 203,000 jobs, demonstrating an economic strength that surprised economists who had been expecting lower numbers.
The U.S. Labor Department report out this morning said the unemployment rate declined to 7.0% from October’s 7.3%, even as more workers joined the labor force and the total employed population rose, in part reflecting the return to work of furloughed federal employees.
Temp staffing was one of the strong growth areas, adding 16,400 jobs, after a slower October, when 9,100 temp jobs were added. Over the last year, temp and contract labor agencies have added 219,000 new jobs.
“This is just a clean sweep,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services Group. “It’s a very good report. It’s across the board.”
Economists polled by Reuters had been expecting a much more modest improvement in the numbers to 7.2 percent unemployment and the addition of about 180,000 new jobs. Dow Jones Newswires found economists anticipating similar results.
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There was plenty of other upbeat news in the monthly Labor Department report:
- Manufacturing showed surprising strength, adding 27,000 new jobs, some of the strongest growth in months.
- Construction was up 17,000 jobs.
- Other sectors with strong growth were: transportation and warehousing (+30,500), healthcare +28,400), retail (+22,300) with most of the growth coming from sporting goods, hobby, book and music shops, and general merchandise retailers, and bars and restaurants (+17,900).
- Adjustments to the initial September and October increased the number of new jobs by 8,000;
- Average hourly earnings rose 4 cents to $24.15, about 2 percent on the year;
- The average workweek for all workers rose as did the length of the workweek for manufacturing workers.
The only losses came in the financial sector, which lost 3,000 jobs overall, and information, where the telecom industry cut 2,100 jobs. The federal government shed 7,000 jobs.