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U.S. economy adds 146,000 jobs, unemployment rate falls to 7.7 percent

  • In this Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 photo, a person fills out an application at the Fort Lauderdale Career Fair, in Dania Beach, Fla. The U.S. economy added a solid 146,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008, the Labor Department announced Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. The government said Superstorm Sandy had only a minimal effect on the figures. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

WASHINGTON — U.S. hiring gains held steady in November despite disruptions from Superstorm Sandy and employers' concerns about impending tax increases from the year-end "fiscal cliff."

Companies added 146,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent — the lowest in nearly four years — from 7.9 percent in October. The rate declined mainly because more people stopped looking for work and weren't counted as unemployed.

The government said Superstorm Sandy had only a minimal effect on the figures.

The Labor Department's report Friday was a mixed one. But on balance, it suggested that the job market is gradually improving.

November's job gains were roughly the same as the average monthly increase this year of about 150,000. Most economists are encouraged by the job growth because it's occurred even as companies have reduced investment in heavy machinery and other equipment.


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