Contradicting the prediction of economists, the US economy added 146,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest unemployment rate the country has seen in four years – since December 2008.
The African-American unemployment rate, while still disproportionately high is no longer double that of the overall US number. Black unemployment dropped more than a full percentage point to13.2 percent from 14.3 percent in October.
African-American joblessness fell from 40.5 to 39.4 percent.
Experts had predicted Hurricane Sandy would hinder hiring, but the Labor Department said the super storm had a minimal effect on the figures. The so-called fiscal cliff also appeared to have little impact on jobs numbers.
The report “is something of a mixed bag but, on balance, it’s a positive,” Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, told The Associated Press.
There is “no obvious impact from the looming fiscal cliff yet,” Ashworth added, “but it could still have a greater effect on December’s figures.”
The government rolled back rosier-than-actual hiring numbers for October and September, saying employers added 49,000 fewer jobs in those two months than it initially estimated.
It’s also important to note that the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low for November mostly because more people stopped looking for work and weren’t counted as unemployed.
Stock futures jumped after the report. Dow Jones industrial average futures were down 20 points in the minutes before the report came out at 8:30 a.m., and just afterward were up 70 points.
In the second half of the year, the economy has added an average of 158,000 jobs a month, a noticeable, if not sizeable, increase from 146,000 new jobs it was averaging in the first six months.
In November, retailers added 53,000 positions. Temporary help companies added 18,000 and education and health care also gained 18,000.
Auto manufacturers added almost 10,000 jobs.
Overall manufacturing jobs fell by 7,000, pushed down by a loss of 12,000 jobs in food manufacturing that likely reflects the layoff of workers at Hostess Brands, which closed its doors for good last month.
The US grew at a 2.7 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, which is considered solid, but not great after a recession. But many economists say growth is slowing to a 1.5 percent rate in the October-December quarter, largely because of the storm and threat of the fiscal cliff. That’s not enough growth to lower the unemployment rate.