WASHINGTON D.C.: In a reversal of the predictions of expected job growth issued by economists, U.S. employers hired only 210,000 more workers in November, while the unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent from 4.6 percent in October.
However, more Americans returned to the workforce and wages rose month-on-month.
However, President Joe Biden described the jobs recovery as "very strong". "Today's historic drop in unemployment rates include dramatic improvements for workers," he said.
"The trend is in the right direction," said Diane Swonk chief economist at Grant Thornton. "The overall labour market is healing much more rapidly than we expected, despite the miss in payrolls," as quoted by the BBC.
Others noted that the outlook for the U.S. economy is becoming complicated by the arrival of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus.
"The new coronavirus Omicron variant, which has yet to fully establish itself in the U.S., is still the real unknown variable in relation to the pace of the jobs recovery," said Charles Hepworth, investment director at GAM Investments, as reported by the BBC. "This weak reading shifts the narrative of the first hike coming earlier next year to perhaps a bit later now."
The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics said there had been a decline in employment in the retail sector by 20,000 workers, while employment in leisure and hospitality rose by only 23,000 jobs and remains nearly 8 percent lower than before the Covid pandemic began.
While on the upside, the Bureau of Labour Statistics said there had been a rise in hiring across areas such as professional and business services, as well as transport and warehousing.
The bureau also said construction and manufacturing had added new jobs.
Figures for October were revised upward to report that 546,000 jobs were added, but millions of Americans have still not returned to work, leaving the total workforce significantly smaller than it was before the pandemic. The reasons include difficulties with childcare and concerns about the Covid infection.
Despite an increase in the numbers of people working or looking for work, known as the participation rate, there are still 3.9 million fewer people in the workforce compared to February 2020.