By Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — The unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 10% in November as employers cut the smallest number of jobs since the recession began. The better-than-expected job figures are a rare note of encouraging news for the labor market.
Still, the respite may be temporary. Many economists expect the unemployment rate to climb into next year as the economy struggles to generate enough jobs for the 15.4 million people out of work.
The economy shed 11,000 jobs last month, an improvement from October's revised total of 111,000, the Labor Department said Friday. That's much better than the 130,000 Wall Street economists expected.
The unemployment rate fell to 10% from 10.2% in October, where economists expected it to remain.
If part-time workers who want full-time jobs and laid off workers who have given up looking for work are included, the so-called underemployment rate also fell, to 17.2% from 17.5% in October.
There was other positive news in the report. The average work week rose to 33.2 hours, from a record low of 33 hours. Economists expect employers will increase hours for their current workers before hiring new ones.The department also increased its job estimate for September, to a loss of 139,000 from 219,000, and for last month, to 111,000 from 190,000.
Temporary help services added 52,000 jobs, the fourth straight increase. That's also positive news, as companies are likely to hire temporary workers before adding permanent ones.
The services sector gained 58,000 jobs last month, while manufacturing and construction shed 69,000 positions.
The unemployment rate fell because the number of jobless Americans dropped by 325,000 to 15.4 million. The jobless rate is calculated from a survey of households, while the number of jobs lost or gain is calculated from a separate survey of business and government establishments. The two surveys can sometimes vary.