Despite fears of a slowdown caused by gridlock in Washington, the economic recovery moved forward at a steady pace in November, pushing unemployment to its lowest level in four years.
The nation’s employers added 146,000 jobs last month, in line with the average of 151,000 a month in 2012. But the pace was a substantial improvement from earlier this year, when job growth slowed sharply and many observers feared a double-dip recession.
The biggest surprise was that Hurricane Sandy created so little drag. Economists had estimated that only 86,000 jobs would be added in November, a decline from October largely because of the storm.
According to the monthly snapshot from the Labor Department, released on Friday, the nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent last month from 7.9 percent in October. Economists cautioned that this bit of seeming good news was the result of a shrinking labor force, rather than the addition of jobs. At the current pace of job creation, the unemployment rate will gradually decline to 7.1 percent by December 2013, said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays Capital.