The numbers: The U.S. gained a lackluster 210,000 new jobs in November even though businesses took more aggressive steps to hire people, a disappointing increase that shows the worst labor shortage in decades is still a drag on the economic recovery.
The increase in hiring — the smallest in a year — was way below Wall Street’s forecast. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 573,000 new jobs.
The U.S. jobless rate fell to 4.2% and touched a new pandemic low. Economists say the official rate likely underestimates the true level of unemployment by a few percentage points, however.
Yet in another encouraging sign, the size of the labor force grew substantially. Some 594,000 people rejoined the labor force in November. The so-called rate of participation rose two ticks to 61.8%.
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Businesses have sought to fill a cope with a labor-market shortage by increasing pay and benefits. Hourly pay rose sharply again last month and wages have climbed 4.8% in the past year, marking the fastest increase since the early 1980s.