Job market showing signs of improvement

Service-sector jobs increased by 79,000 last month, and the goods-producing sector was up 14,000, the first increase since March 2007, while factory jobs rose by 16,000, the report showed. 

Construction jobs fell by 3,000 in November, the smallest decline since June 2007, according to the report. 

Meanwhile, employers announced job cuts totaling 48,711 in November, which is 28 percent higher than the planned layoffs reported in October and the highest layoffs since March, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Still, November's layoffs were 3.3 percent below the same period last year, according to the Challenger report. 

The U.S. economy might have added an estimated 145,000 jobs last month, in a Labor Department report that tracks public- and private-sector job creation set for release Friday. 

Despite the improvement, the unemployment rate could remain stuck at 9.6 percent for the fourth straight month. 

"Nevertheless, employment gains of this magnitude are not sufficient to lower the unemployment rate, which likely will remain above 9 percent for all of 2011," the report said. 

"Given modest GDP growth in the second and third quarters and the usual lag of employment behind GDP, it would not be surprising to see several more months of only moderate gains in employment even as the economic recovery gathers momentum."

Meanwhile, separate data from the Labor Department showed productivity rising more than previously thought in the third quarter. Firms managed to increase output while holding down labor costs, which fell at a 0.1 percent pace, the same as previously estimated, a Labor Department report showed. 

Spending on construction projects also unexpectedly increased by 0.7 percent in October, the second straight monthly rise. 

Also, manufacturing numbers that fell short of analysts' expectations.

The Institute for Supply Management's index expanded for the 16th straight month but slipped to 56.6 in November from 56.9 in October. Readings above 50 indicate expanding activity. 

"Manufacturing continues to benefit from the recovery in autos, but those industries reliant upon housing continue to struggle," said Norbert Ore, chairman of ISM.

The ISM's new orders index fell to 56.6 from 58.9, while the production index fell to 55.0 from 62.7