Jobless rate falls to lowest point since Obama's election


The nation's jobless rate hit a five-year low on Friday as the employers added 203,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate fell to 7 percent.

It's the second month of large job gains in a row; the November figures were higher than expected.

The unemployment rate hasn't been this low since November 2008, the month President Obama was first elected, when it stood at 6.8 percent.

As the recession unfolded, the jobless rate soared over 10 percent, leading Obama to move a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus bill through Congress. The administration argues that bill helped save the economy from disaster, while Republicans continue to argue it did more harm than good by driving up deficits.

Republicans described the report as encouraging, and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it was a reason to discontinue federal unemployment benefits demanded by Democrats. The benefits are set to expire later this month.

"Today’s report includes positive signs that should discourage calls for more emergency government ‘stimulus,' " Boehner said. "Instead, what our economy needs is more pro-growth solutions that get government out of the way."

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday had called for an extension of the federal benefits, which kick in after state benefits are exhausted.

There was plenty of positive news in Friday's report, which continues a run in which the economy has averaged adding more than 200,000 jobs per month for the last four months. Revised third-quarter estimates released Thursday also showed the nation's economy grew at a 3.6 percent rate. 

Overall, the economy also added 8,000 more jobs in September and October than it had previously estimated, the BLS said.

September's job gains were revised up to 175,000 from 163,000, while the October figure was revised down from 204,000 to 200,000.

The 16-day government shutdown seemed to have little effect on the willingness of businesses to hire over the past couple of months.

Some economists had expected a larger adjustment during the month of the government shutdown, but the figure held steady.  

Manufacturing added 27,000 jobs and construction jobs were up 17,000 last month.

The gains in manufacturing employment were the largest since March 2012, and the sector eclipsed the 12 million mark in employment for the first time since April 2009. 

In the past four years, the sector has added 543,000 new workers, including 76,000 in the past year. 

Healthcare employers added 28,000, retailers hired 22,000 and the service sector, including restaurants added 18,000. 

Federal government employment fell by 7,000 in November. 

The labor workforce grew by 455,000 in November, after declining by 720,000 in October.

While more people jumped back into the labor force to look for work, the labor participation rate remained muted. 

The rate improved to 63 percent from 62.8 in October, which was the lowest rate in 35 years. 

Job growth has averaged 195,000 per month over the prior 12 months.