US job creation grew faster than expected in November, but a decline in the unemployment rate to nearly a four-year low as people abandoned searching for work suggested the labor market was still relatively weak.
The Labor Department delivered a mixed report Friday that showed hiring remained steady last month but employers added 49,000 fewer jobs in October and September than initially estimated.
Non-farm employment increased by 146,000 jobs in November, in contrast to analyst expectations of a sharp decline related to superstorm Sandy, which hit the U.S. east coast on October 29.
The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent last month, the lowest since December 2008, from 7.9 percent in October, but the decline was mostly because more people stopped seeking work and were not counted as unemployed.
The department said the superstorm did not have a significant effect on employment data last month. â€œOur analysis leads us to conclude that Hurricane Sandy did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November,â€ said John Galvin, the commissioner at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Since July, the economy has added an average of 158,000 jobs per month, a modest increase from 146,000 a month in the first half of the year but not enough to significantly reduce the unemployment rate.
Employment continues to be limited by fears the government may fail to prevent the $600 billion in automatic tax increases and government spending cuts set to take effect in January.