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U.S. unemployment rate declines to 7 percent

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A fourth straight month of solid hiring cut the U.S. unemployment rate in November to a five-year low of 7 percent. The gains in the job market could spur greater economic growth.

The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 203,000 jobs, nearly matching October's revised gain of 200,000. The job gains helped lower the unemployment rate from 7.3 percent in October.

The strengthening job market is likely to fuel speculation that the Federal Reserve may scale back its bond purchases when it meets later this month.

The economy has now generated an average of 204,000 jobs from August through November. That's up from 159,000 a month from April through July.

Many of the November job gains were in higher-paying industries. Manufacturers added 27,000 positions, the most since March 2012. Construction firms gained 17,000. The two industries have created a combined 113,000 jobs in the past four months.

Another month of robust hiring follows other positive economic news. The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.6 percent in the July-September quarter, the fastest growth since early 2012, the government said Wednesday.

Still, nearly half that gain came from businesses building their stockpiles. Consumer spending grew at the slowest pace since late 2009.

Greater hiring could support healthier spending. Job growth has a dominant influence over much of the economy. If hiring continues at the current pace, a virtuous cycle starts to build. More jobs usually lead to higher wages, more spending and faster growth.

But more higher-paying jobs are also necessary. Roughly half the jobs that were added in the six months through October were in four low-wage industries: retail; hotels, restaurants and entertainment; temp jobs; and home health care workers. Some of the biggest labor increases were in the leisure and hospitality sector, with 53,000 new jobs, including 29,300 new restaurant jobs.

The labor force participation rate, which measures the percentage of those in the labor force compared to people willing and able to work, fell by 0.4 percentage points, to 62.8 percent, a 35-year low.

The average work week for all workers was unchanged, at 34.4 hours.

The Fed has pegged its stimulus efforts to the unemployment rate. Chairman Ben Bernanke has said the Fed will ease its monthly purchases of $85 billion in bonds once hiring has improved consistently. The bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates low.

The recent economic upturn has been surprising. Many economists expected the government shutdown in October to hobble growth. Yet the economy motored along without much interruption, according to several government and industry reports.

Early reports on holiday shopping have been disappointing. The National Retail Federation said sales during the Thanksgiving weekend — probably the most important stretch for retailers — fell for the first time since the group began keeping track in 2006.

Consumers are willing to spend on big-ticket items. Autos sold in November at their best pace in seven years, according to Autodata Corp. New-home sales in October bounced back from a summer downturn.

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  • real unemployment rate
    The media constantly reports the Hussein Obama unemployment numbers as true (currently 7.0%). The real unemployment rate or U-6 which is a broader and more accurate measurement of unemployment is currently just north of 11%. Folks and journalist, I don't make up these numbers check them out for yourself.

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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