The US unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent in November, its lowest level since March 2009, the Labor Department reported Friday.
It was the sharpest decline since December, and surprised most analysts who forecast the jobless rate would be unchanged at 9.0 percent for a second straight month.
"Woo-hoo!" said Robert Brusca, chief economist at FAO Economics. "Jobs creation is in train."
"Continuing upward revisions imply that there is more and more growth that the Labor Department is underestimating."
The economy created a net 120,000 jobs, not as strong as the consensus estimate of 123,000, but 20 percent higher compared with October's upwardly revised 100,000 reading.
But the net gain was below the average 131,000 of the past 12 months.
The private sector added 140,000 jobs, in line with expectations. The Labor Department noted solid hiring in the massive services sector. Employment in retail trade jumped by 49,800.
Manufacturing, a key pillar of the US economy, added 2,000 jobs, while the overall good-producing sector lost 6,000. The biggest jobs loser was construction, shedding 12,000 positions amid a prolonged housing crisis.
The private sector gains continued to be offset by a downward shift in government employment. The public sector shed 20,000 jobs in November, after a drop of 17,000 in October.
The improvement in the unemployment rate was largely due to a steep decrease in the number of people actively seeking work.
However, the number of unemployed people also fell sharply, by 594,000, from October, to 13.3 million. The department said that was the biggest decline since July 1983.