WASHINGTON — The nation's unemployment rate dropped to 5.8% in November, the Labor Department said Friday, as the economy showed surprising strength despite weak Christmas sales and the falling stock market.
Analysts said the fall from October's 5.9% rate was a sign that manufacturers, through better management and increased foreign trade, replaced consumers as the driving force in the current economy.
"Some of the figures look so strong as to be barely credible," said Norman Robertson, chief economist of Pittsburgh's Mellon Bank. "They clearly illustrate that the economy, stock market crash or no stock market crash, is still forging ahead at a very strong pace."
Other economists warned that the economy could founder if people get scared enough by news from Wall Street to clamp down on spending. But for November, at least, the recent growth in demand for manufactured goods combined with the perennial desire for more services to create more jobs.
Sign of Confidence
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said, "The strong employment growth in November is one sign that confidence in the economy remains steadfast. This is especially encouraging in view of the recent stock market declines."
The Labor Department's survey of households showed that the labor force grew by 313,000 to reach 113.5 million, while the number of people out of work and looking for a job fell by 58,000, to 7.12 million.
The number of people who were out of the labor force also dropped, by 96,000, to 62.85 million.
More than 2 million jobs have been added to payrolls this year, the government said. Adult women accounted for 60% of the increase, and Latinos provided a quarter of the total.
A separate survey of establishments, which looks more closely at the types of jobs created, showed that goods-producing companies provided about four of every nine new jobs in November. The increases were spread across nearly all 20 of the individual industry categories, the Labor Department said.
Many Jobs Added
Health services, transportation and public utilities and wholesale trades each added 25,000 jobs during November, while the finance, insurance and real estate industries grew by 15,000, the government said. Retail employment was unchanged after seasonal adjustment, mainly because of less hiring than normal for the holiday season.
The rate for adult men dropped to 5% while remaining unchanged for women at 5.2%. Teen-agers saw their jobless rate fall to 16.8%.