Unemployment drops to lowest rate in nine years

The U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November and the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent.

The U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November and the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, the lowest in more than nine years.

The news about the job market was tempered by a decline in average hourly pay — a decline of 3 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $25.89, after an 11-cent increase in October. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said earnings have risen 2.5 percent this year.

“A solid report but not quite as good as the headline numbers would indicate,” PNC deputy chief economist Gus Faucher told the New York Times. “There’s mixed news there.”

The unemployment rate is the lowest since August 2007, but Fancher said the drop “came more from a decline in the labor force, more than an increase in household employment.”

The government said job gains occurred in professional and business services and health care.

The September job gain was revised upward to 208,000 from 191,000, an increase of 17,000, but the October figure was revised downward to 142,000 from the previous figure of 161,000. That left job gains for the two-month period 2,000 lower than previously reported.

The government said the number of people employed part time for economic reasons — 5.7 million — changed little in November, but was down by 416,000 for the year. Those people, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut or they were unable to find a full-time job.

In November, 1.9 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, up 215,000 from a year earlier. The data are not seasonally adjusted.

The government said these people were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job at some time during the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks that preceded the survey.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the steady labor-market growth makes it likely that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this month.

Economists that the Journal surveyed expected 180,000 new jobs and a jobless rate of 4.9 percent in November.