Economists had forecast 422,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, although this week's report on private payrolls from ADP indicating that the private sector added 807,000 jobs had created some anticipation that the official figure would be higher than the consensus forecast.
Consumers in the U.S. spent heavily this year on Christmas gifts, pushing retail sales up 11 percent higher than 2019 in the traditional holiday shopping season beginning November 1. And lots of shopping took place earlier this year as consumers fretted that snarled supply chains would lead to shortages of goods. In anticipation of that, many businesses staffed up earlier in the year than is traditional.
The results can be seen in the jobs numbers. The economy added on 379,000 jobs in September and 546,000 in October, more than expected for each month. But much of that hiring appears to have been borrowed from the future, so to speak. In November, traditionally a big month for hiring, the economy added just 249,000 jobs.
U.S. employers have been attempting to hire workers at a record pace in recent months. Job openings were above 10 million in November, when a record number of workers quit their jobs. The unemployment rate has fallen far faster than anticipated. But the virus has made hiring more complicated and some workers may be hesitant to return to in-person work because they fear infection or want to avoid masking and vaccination requirements. Decades-high levels of inflation, which reduces the value of a worker's wages, may also make employment less attractive for some Americans.