Non-farm employers added 321,000 jobs in November, according to data released Friday from the Labor Department, and the unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent. This is a big positive surprise — economists had expected the report to say firms added only 230,000 jobs last month. It's also the biggest single month of payroll growth since January 2012.
Wages inched upward but didn't break free of their recent flat growth. Average hourly earnings were up 2.1 percent year over year, to $24.66, and up 9 cents from the prior month. That's a good sign, but more wage growth would be a sign that slack in the labor market has finally lessened. Wage growth has been stuck at around 2 percent for a few years now, only slightly higher than the rate of inflation.
The surprisingly positive payrolls numbers also came with upward revisions for the prior two months. September's figure was revised upward from 256,000 to 271,000, and October's payrolls number was revised from 214,000 to 243,000, meaning 44,000 more jobs in those months than previously reported.