WASHINGTON — The nation's unemployment rate returned to a decade-low 5.9% in November as 315,000 more Americans found work, the Labor Department said today.
Factories put 70,000 new workers on their assembly lines last month, raising to 300,000 the number of jobs gained in the rebounding manufacturing sector since June.
The 0.1 percentage point drop from October's unemployment rate of 6% brought the rate back to the September level, the lowest it had been since July, 1979, when the rate was 5.7%.
California's unemployment rate dropped substantially last month, to 5.3% from 6% in October, the department said. Nonfarm industries in the state gained 48,900 net jobs during November.
At the national level, unemployment dropped by 58,000 to 7.1 million in November. A year ago, there were 8.2 million unemployed job-seekers.
Analysts and management consultants say they have found nothing to indicate that the plunge in stock prices Oct. 19 and wide fluctuations since then have curtailed the employment growth of the past five years. Indeed, the November job gains were higher than virtually all of them had predicted.
Record Number of Workers
The share of Americans holding jobs climbed two-tenths of a percentage point in November to 61.9%, the highest ever, the Labor Department said.
A separate survey of business establishments showed payroll growth of 275,000, about half the increase in October. Next to manufacturing, the largest job gains were in health services, which jumped by 47,000.
Seasonally adjusted construction employment increased by 35,000 as the number of winter layoffs were fewer than usual following weak hiring over the summer due to higher interest rates.
The transportation, public utilities and wholesale trade areas of the economy each added 25,000 jobs in November.
Crash Effect Minimal
Despite the Oct. 19 stock market crash, employment among finance, insurance and real estate companies rose by a total of 15,000, offsetting a decline of 2,000 in October.
The October figures were collected the week before the crash, in which the Dow Jones average of 30 industrial stocks dropped 508 points in one day. Today's unemployment report is the first government indicator of a full month's economic activity since then.
The only negative in the report was a seasonally adjusted drop of 35,000 workers in general merchandise stores. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said holiday-related hiring, normally a major component in the November figures, was less than expected, indicating that the stock market crash has reduced retailers' expectations for banner Christmas sales.
Nearly All Industries Up
Labor Statistics Commissioner Janet Norwood told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress today that nearly all of the 20 individual manufacturing industries reported over-the-month job gains.
"Factory hours also continued to be very high," Norwood said. "At an average 41.2 hours in November, the factory workweek was just a 10th of an hour below the October level, and factory hours in both months represent the longest workweeks in 21 years."