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US unemployment at five-year low

Friday, December 06 14:00:31

U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in November and the jobless rate fell to a five-year low of 7.0 percent, which could fan speculation the Federal Reserve could start reducing its bond purchases this month.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 203,000 new jobs last month, the Labor Department said today. The unemployment rate dropped three tenths of a percentage point to its lowest level since November 2008 as some federal workers who were counted as jobless in October returned to work after a 16-day partial shutdown of the government.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls rising 180,000 last month and the unemployment rate falling to 7.2 percent from 7.3 percent.

Job gains for September and October were revised to show 8,000 more jobs created than previously reported, lending strength to the report. Other details were also upbeat, with employment gains across the board, hourly earnings rising and the workweek lengthening.

In addition, the jobless rate fell even as the participation rate - the share of working-age Americans who either have a job or are looking for one - bounced back from a 35-1/2-year low touched in October.

The closely watched employment report was released little more than a week before the Fed's Dec. 17-18 policy-setting meeting.

The stronger-than-expected reading on job growth in November could stir speculation the central bank might reduce its current pace of bond purchases this month, but most economists feel the Fed will want further signs of economic progress before acting.

Minutes from the U.S. central bank's last meeting in October showed officials were preparing to scale back their monthly $85 billion bond-buying campaign in coming months as long as the economy continues to improve.