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Job creation surged in November, with the U.S. economy adding a dazzling 321,000 positions though the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent, according to a government report.
Economists were expecting 230,000 new nonfarm payrolls jobs and unemployment at 5.8 percent. The reported number for October was revised higher to 243,000 jobs. September's number also was boosted, from 256,000 to 271,000.
Despite the big pickup in hiring, equity traders had little reaction, with futures indicating a modestly higher open on Wall Street, while bond yields rose.
The dramatic move was well above the average of 224,000 a month over the past year.
Professional and business services led the way, with 86,000 new positions, according to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retail also saw 50,000 new hires heading into the holiday shopping season. Bars and restaurants added 27,000 positions, bringing the industry's total growth to 321,000 over the past year.
"One word can describe today's report: Spectacular," said Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital. "It's clear lower prices at the pump are attributing to the easy beat as consumers are enjoying the extra pocket change while increasing their discretionary budgets."
An alternative measure of job creation that includes discouraged workers and the underemployed edged lower, from 11.5 percent to 11.4 percent.
Despite the rosy overall numbers, the actual employment level was little changed, with just 4,000 more Americans at work for the month, according to the household survey. The total unemployment level rose by 115,000.
Wage growth, closely watched by the Federal Reserve as it mulls an interest rate hike, did pick up some, with average hourly earnings rising 9 cents to $24.66, a 2.1 percent gain.
"You need to take any one month's data with a large amount of salt," said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide. "But it is certainly good news that (wages) went up, even if it is just for the one month."
The Fed is tying its zero interest rate policy to wages, employment growth and inflation pressures, which have remained muted, allowing the central bank to stay in ultra-easy mode.
"How could the Fed with a straight face keep rates at zero in the face of strong job growth and now the possibility of wage inflation?" Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, said in a note.
Other areas of job growth were: Health care, 29,000; Manufacturing, 28,000; financial activities, 20,000; transportation and warehousing, 17,000.