By Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch
The numbers: The economy produced a robust 266,000 new jobs in November and the unemployment rate returned to a 50-year low, reflecting the resilience of the U.S. labor market.
The increase in employment — the biggest since January — was partly inflated by the return of nearly 50,000 striking auto workers at General Motors /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM -4.05% . Yet it was still a surprisingly strong report. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had predicted a more modest 180,000 gain.
Hiring was strong almost across the board, with health care, hospitality and professional occupations leading the way.
The unemployment rate dipped to 3.5% from 3.6% to match the lowest level since the end of 1969.
The stock market /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -3.15% soared in early Friday trades after the jobs report.
Employment in manufacturing jumped by 54,000, but almost all of the gains stemmed from General Motors /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM -4.05% employees returning to work after a month-long strike. Manufacturers have added virtually no jobs this year, hurt by a slowing global economy and by the U.S. trade war with China.
Also lagging behind were retailers, construction firms and energy producers. Retailers added just 2,000 new jobs a month before the holiday shopping season. Builders filled just 1,000 positions. And oil-and-gas companies shed 7,000 jobs, reflecting lower energy prices.
The amount of money the average worker earns, meanwhile, rose 7 cents to $28.29 an hour. The increase in pay in the past 12 months slowed to 3.1% from 3.2%, however, indicating that many of the newly created jobs are likely lower-paying ones.
Wage gains climbed steadily from 2014 until early this year before leveling out at just over 3% a year.
Adding to the positive tone of the November jobs report, the government revised up employment gains for October and September by a combined 41,000.
Over the past three months, the economy had added an average of 205,000 new jobs. That’s down from a 223,000 average in 2018, but still quite vigorous more than a decade into an economic recovery.