It was the smallest number of jobs added to the US economy since December 2020, when the economy actually shed jobs amid a surge in Covid cases. Economists had expected more than double the number of jobs created in November, forecasting a continuation of the buoyant economic recovery over the past two months. Instead, the November jobs gain was more reminiscent of the pre-pandemic economy, when employers added a smaller but steady number of positions.
The unemployment rate fell to 4.2%, a new pandemic-era low.
Professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, as well as manufacturing, added the most jobs last month.
The retail sector, however, which should be swelling for the holidays, shed jobs.
“It is not clear if this is a seasonal issue, or some sort of shift in terms of the timing of holiday help, but overall the payroll data does not match up with the alternative indicators of labor market activity that we track,” wrote Thomas Simons, money market economist at Jefferies, in a note to clients.
Simons expected to see either retail or leisure and hospitality payrolls to rise. The latter sector added some jobs, but not many, last month.
Overall, the economy is still down 3.9 million jobs from its pre-pandemic levels.