The U.S. economy added a whopping 321,000 jobs in November — far more than analysts had expected — although the national jobless rate remained stuck at 5.8 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The November number of new jobs was nearly 50 percent higher than the consensus economist forecast, and sparked an early rally on world stock markets. The Labor Department also revised September’s report up by 15,000 to 271,000 jobs, and revised October up by 29,000 jobs to 243,000.
Retailers and delivery services were beefing up staff in anticipation of the holiday rush, but the overall jobless rate stayed flat in part because many longer-term unemployed workers are pouring back into the job market. tamping down pressure on employers to boost wages.
The Labor Department said that some 2.8 million U.S. workers had been out of a job for more than six months in November, down from 4 million a year ago. But the overall “labor participation rate” remains at a historically high 62.8 percent, reflecting the fact that many still see no hope of landing a job.
Rising consumer and employer confidence, strong overall GDP growth and falling gas prices are all thought to be contributing to the job market’s impressive strength in recent months.
“Today’s report shows a broadening improvement in the labor market and confirms strength in an expanding economy,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist with the National Retail Federation.
“We remain optimistic that we are gaining traction to a more normal labor market in the near future which should contribute to wage and salary growth,” he added.
“These were boom-like numbers,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told The Associated Press. “They indicate that the U.S. economy is on very solid ground.”
President Obama used a White House event announcing his choice of Ashton Carter as defense secretary to tout the strong numbers, saying the labor gains are “on a pace not seen since the 1990s.”
Mr. Obama warned Congress that a possible government shutdown could slow the market’s recovery, while boasting that America’s economy has rebounded much faster than its leading trading partners in Europe and Asia.
“The U.S. continues to outpace the rest of the world,” he said.
GOP House Speaker John Boehner also welcomed the November job numbers, but said many of Mr. Obama’s policies are still holding the economy back and that too many American workers remain on the sidelines or face stagnant paychecks.
“While it’s welcome news that more people found work last month, millions still remain out of work, and middle-class families across the country, including my home state of Ohio, are struggling to get by on wages that haven’t kept pace with rising costs,” he said.