Washington U.S. employers pulled back on hiring as they headed into the holiday shopping season, adding just 112,000 new jobs overall in November. It was the weakest gain in five months and about half of what economists had forecast.
Still, the overall, seasonally adjusted civilian unemployment rate dropped fractionally -- by 0.1 percentage point -- to 5.4 percent, as more people looking for work found jobs, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Employers' payrolls have expanded by 2.3 million since August 2003, but the monthly pace has been sluggish. Analysts had predicted in advance of Friday's Bureau of Labor Statistics report that about 200,000 new jobs were created last month.
October's blockbuster showing was tempered a bit in revised figures. The department lowered from 337,000 to 303,000 its previous estimate of new jobs. Economists say the job boom that month was fueled by hurricane cleanup activity. September's job numbers also were changed, falling 20,000 to 119,000.
But some economists weren't pessimistic.
"It's not great job growth, but it's decent," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "It is decent enough to create income and spending," which will keep the economy chugging.
The White House noted that new jobs have been created for 15 straight months.
"The economy is continuing to grow stronger with more than 2 million jobs created this year," said spokesman Scott McClellan. "The president's economic policies are working."