The ADP jobs report for November may have been a slight miss, but the official BLS report hit a bullseye — finally. The US economy added 321,000 jobs last month, the highest figure in years, as job creation belatedly linked up with two solid quarters of growth. The BLS also revised the previous two months upward by 44,000:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 321,000 in November, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains were widespread, led by growth in professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and manufacturing.

In November, the unemployment rate held at 5.8 percent, and the number of unemployed persons was little changed at 9.1 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 1.2 percentage points and 1.7 million, respectively. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult men rose to 5.4 percent in November. The rates for adult women (5.3 percent), teenagers (17.7 percent), whites (4.9 percent), blacks (11.1 percent), and Hispanics (6.6 percent) showed little change over the month. The jobless rate for Asians was 4.8 percent (not seasonally adjusted),
little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 2.8 million in November. These individuals accounted for 30.7 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed declined by 1.2 million. (See table A-12.)

The news isn’t all good. The unemployment rate remained steady, but so did the civilian workforce participation rate. At 62.8%, it’s still near lows not seen since the Jimmy Carter administration. The number of people not in the labor force grew again to 92.447 million, an increase of 69,000 and the second-highest reading this year. It’s up 1.164 million over the last year. The number of people unemployed rose to 9.11 million, a jump of 115,000, but that figure is the second-lowest of the year.

Still, there’s no disputing that adding 321,000 jobs to the economy is a good sign that the economy might finally be moving out of a five-year stagnation period and into real growth. The three-month average is 278,000 jobs a month, not spectacular but moving in the right direction. The U-3 number didn’t change from 5.8% last month, but the U-6 result dropped slightly to 11.4%, down from 12.7% in February. That’s the lowest level seen since September 2008, and a better look at the relative health of the labor force. (It’s worth noting that the leveling off of the civilian workforce participation rate, which has been relatively unchanged at 1978 levels for more than a year, makes the U-3 number more reliable on a month-to-month basis, although still making comparisons to other periods with significantly better CWPR levels problematic.)

As Jeff Cox noted at CNBC, not only was this an objectively good number, it was unexpectedly so:

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 for November, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 5.8 percent. The reported number for October was revised higher to 243,000 jobs. September’s number came up from 256,000 to 271,000.

Interestingly, though, the surprise didn’t impress the markets this morning, at least not initially:

Despite the big pick-up in hiring, markets reacted little to the report, with futures indicating a flat to modestly lower open on Wall Street, while bond yields rose.

CNN now expects 2014 employment to party like it’s 1999:

cnn-jobs

Hiring surged in November as employers added 321,000 jobs, crowning 2014 as the strongest year for job growth since 1999.

The unemployment rate remained steady at 5.8%, according the government report released Friday. That’s down from 6.6% in January.

What happened? It seems pretty simple — when you have two successive quarters of ~4% annualized GDP growth, the economy has to add jobs to keep up at some point. Job creation is usually a lagging indicator, too, so this burst may continue even if the economy cools a bit in Q4 as some have suggested. That may also be why the markets greeted this news with restraint rather than exuberance.