The U.S. added an unexpectedly large 321,000 jobs in November, the largest single-month gain in nearly three years according to the Labor Department’s Friday release. The unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent due to slightly more people entering the workforce.
Analysts and economists had been expecting a reading of around 235,000 new jobs.
The gains were broad across nearly all sectors. Professional and business services added 86,000 jobs, retail was up 50,000, healthcare added 29,000 jobs, and manufacturing positions increased by 28,000.
With revisions to September and October’s numbers totaling a net gain of 44,000 across the two months, the September-November 2014 period marks the best three-month stretch of job gains since March-May 2010. But May 2010’s numbers were artificially inflated due to hiring for the 2010 Census. Taking that period of out the equation, the most recent three month stretch was the best since the first three months of 2006.
The labor force participation rate in November was 62.8 percent, flat from October and up very slightly from September’s 62.7 percent. Similarly, the employment-to-population ratio, 59.2 percent, was flat month-over-month, but up from 58.6 percent in November 2013. There were also about 72,000 fewer discouraged workers in November compared to October.
The U-6 alternative measure of unemployment – which counts discouraged workers, those in part-time jobs against their will, and “marginally attached” workers – was 11.4 percent in November, down slightly from 11.5 percent in the prior month and down from 13.1 percent in November 2013. The U-6 measure is considered by some to be the “real” unemployment rate.
Hourly wages increased 9 cents in November, but only 4 cents for non-managerial positions. Wages have increased only 2.1 percent over the past year, which economists say is a sign there is still significant slack in the labor market.