U.S. payrolls grow while jobless rate drops

Payrolls continue to grow in the United States even as the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since March 2009.

According to Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls rose 120,000 in November, while the jobless rate fell four-tenths to 8.6 percent.

Based on the latest results of monthly employer surveys, the private sector added 140,000 net new jobs, but government employment continued to trend downward with a net loss of 20,000 jobs.

Initial estimates for job gains in October and September were revised upward a combined 72,000. The new numbers bring average monthly job gains over the past year to 131,000.

The unemployment rate, determined by the results of a separate household survey, has retreated to its lowest level since March 2009, matching the 8.6 percent rate reported then.

For November, employment in retail trades rose 50,000 with much of that gain coming from hiring for clothing, electronics and appliance stores. Business and professional services added 33,000 net new jobs, while the leisure and hospitality sector added another 22,000 jobs. Health care payrolls rose 17,000.

Employment in the manufacturing and construction sectors held steady, while government payrolls dropped 20,000.

The average workweek for all employees on  private nonfarm payrolls remained unchanged at 34.3 hours, while the average manufacturing workweek fell two-tenths of an hour to 40.3 hours.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls fell 2 cents in November to $23.18.  Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 1.8 percent.