The unemployment rate fell to 7 percent, the lowest level since 2008, as the U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs in November, according to government data released Friday.
November’s employment gains, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, beat Wall Street expectations. Four consecutive months of strong hiring have cut the unemployment rate to a 5-year low. The unemployment rate dropped from 7.3 percent to 7 percent.
Consumer spending also ticked up in October, the government said, despite mostly flat wages.
Investors have been closely tracking employment data as a signal of when the Federal Reserve will begin scaling back its policy of monetary stimulus through large-scale bond-buying, and the stock market has suffered losses in recent days in part because of expectations the central bank will soon begin “tapering” that policy. Investors interpreted October’s unexpectedly strong employment numbers, which many thought would be depressed due to lingering effects of the government shutdown, as a signal the Fed’s bond-buying program could be scaled back soon.
Futures in American markets were up slightly in early-morning trading on Friday.