WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. job market has been recovering fitfully for three years. Now, it’s starting to show consistency.
Employers added 203,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate fell to 7 percent, a five-year low.
The economy added an average of 204,000 jobs from August through November, up sharply from 159,000 a month from April through July. The robust gain suggested that the economy will begin to accelerate. As employers step up hiring, more people have money to spend to drive the economy.
In addition to the solid job gain and the drop in unemployment, Friday’s report offered other encouraging signs:
– Higher-paying industries are adding more jobs. Manufacturers added 27,000 jobs, the most since March 2012. Construction companies added 17,000. The two industries have created a combined 113,000 jobs over the past four months.
– Hourly wages are up. The average rose 4 cents in November to $24.15. It’s risen just 2 percent in the past year. But that’s ahead of inflation: Consumer prices are up only 0.9 percent in that time.
– Employers are giving their workers more hours: The average work week rose to 34.5 hours from 34.4. A rule of thumb among economists is that a one-tenth hourly increase in the work week is equivalent to adding 300,000 jobs.
– Hiring was broad-based. In addition to higher-paying industries, retailers added 22,300 jobs, restaurants, bars and hotels 20,800. Education and health care added 40,000. And after years of cutbacks, state and local governments are hiring again. In November, governments at all levels combined added 7,000 jobs.
That said, more higher-paying jobs are needed to sustain the economy’s momentum. Roughly half the jobs that were added in the six months through October were in four low-wage industries: retail; hotels, restaurants and entertainment; temp jobs; and home health care workers.