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By Don Lee, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Hiring in the U.S. surged last month as employers added a robust 321,000 jobs across a broad spectrum of high- and low-paying industries, the government said Friday.

The nation’s unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent in November as more people entered or returned to the job market.

Though the labor-participation rate and the number of long-term unemployed were little changed, the Labor Department report overall indicated that the jobs market picked up momentum despite concerns that weaker global performance could hammer the American economy. The net job gain last month was the biggest in nearly three years.

Moreover, payroll employment numbers for September and October were revised higher by a total of 44,000. With that, job growth has averaged 278,000 a month in the last three months.

The hiring in November far exceeded expectations for job growth of about 225,000. There were strong gains at retailers ahead of the holiday season, but also a burst of new hires in the better-paying business services category that includes computer programmers and engineers. Manufacturing, construction, healthcare and even financial services all added a solid batch of jobs last month.

The latest jobs data, combined with other indicators such as low unemployment benefit claims and increased confidence among workers to change jobs, adds to the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will start to raise its benchmark interest rate by the middle of next year.

As yet, however, the pay of the typical worker has not budged from its paltry annual rate of growth. In November, the average hourly earnings for all private-sector employees saw a solid increase of 9 cents from October, to $24.66. Still, that was 2.1 percent higher than a year ago, just a notch above the rate of inflation and within the narrow 2 percent-2.1 percent band in which it has stayed all year long.

AFP Photo/Scott Olson

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