US employers added 266,000 jobs in November, up from 156,000 added in October, the Labor Department reported Friday. The gains include auto workers who returned to work after a six-week strike at General Motors.
The US unemployment rate fell slightly to 3.5%. That matches a 50-year low also reached in September of this year.
The report shows a continuation of the strong labor market of recent years. It marks the 21st straight month that the unemployment rate has been at or below 4%, a level generally considered to represent full employment. And thanks to the strong labor market, workers have been able to make some progress on wages, which are up 3.1% over the last 12 months. Annual wage increases have averaged 3% or greater every month since August 2018.
The manufacturing sector added 54,000 jobs in November, offsetting a decline in October related to nearly 50,000 General Motors workers who were then on strike.
But the job increases were widespread across the US economy. Health care had a big gain, up 45,000, as did the leisure and hospitality industry, which also added 45,000 jobs.
“This firmly helps put fears of recession in the rearview mirror,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.
Still, the overall level of hiring so far this year is a bit slower this year than it was in 2018. Employers added an average of 223,000 jobs every month last year compared to only 180,000 this year.
And there are areas where employment gains were weaker. Retail only added 2,000 jobs ahead of the holiday shopping season. And construction only added about 1,000 jobs. But that can be because, in a hot job market, employers are having trouble finding workers they need in those areas. Both those sectors have very low rates of unemployment for job seekers who most recently worked in those fields.