The government said Friday that employment growth was much better than expected in November, with the United States economy adding 146,000 jobs and the unemployment rate falling to 7.7 percent.
The jobless rate was the lowest December 2008. Economists had estimated the Labor Department would report that only 86,000 jobs were created in November and that the rate of unemployment would remain flat at 7.9 percent.
The strength of the numbers was all the more notable because many experts expected a muted jobs performance because of the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast on Oct. 31.
The Labor Department revised its job growth figures for October and September downward.
Still, November’s net job growth was below the average of 170,000 new jobs added monthly over the course of August, September and October.
“The labor market is very much in the recovery stage,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, before the announcement. However, he added, “It’s a long way from full health with workers having little negotiating power when it comes to raises.”
Average hourly earnings in November rose 0.2 percent, the report showed.
Manufacturing jobs fell by 7,000. Economists have been closely watching the sector amid weak demand from Europe and signs that businesses in the United States are holding off on spending ahead of the fiscal impasse in Washington.