Job creation moved forward again in November, with the U.S. economy adding a better-than-expected 203,000 to the employment rolls in news that could cloud the future of monetary policy.
The unemployment rate fell to 7 percent, a move that could trigger the Federal Reserve and outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke into action on its monthly liquidity-infusion program.
"The driver for the (Fed) is the headline unemployment rate, which we continue to predict will result in a mere $5 billion reduction in the flow of security purchases at the December meeting," Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak, said in a note.
"Mr. Bernanke can support that decision with evidence of what appears to be sustainable improvement in the headline reading and point to the micro statistics as reasoning to delay the onset of any increase in the fed funds rate into 2016 or beyond," he added.
Economists were expecting the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report 180,000 new jobs created in November, down from an initially reported 204,000 in October. The unemployment rate was expected to decline a notch to 7.2 percent from 7.3 percent.
An alternative rate that includes underemployed and discouraged workers fell sharply, from 13.8 percent to 13.2 percent.
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Stock futures surged higher following the report after an initial dip. Bond yields jumped, with the 10-year yield moving to 2.88 percent.