The U.S. says its labor market advanced sharply last month and its jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest level in nearly four years.
The government said Friday that late October's devastating superstorm Sandy had little effect on hiring, as employers unexpectedly added 146,000 new jobs in November. That was substantially more than economists had predicted.
The jobless rate improved from October's 7.9 percent level to reach its lowest point since December 2008. But the government said employers added 49,000 fewer jobs in October and September than initially estimated.
The government report says the biggest factor in the jobless rate decline was the fact that more Americans stopped looking for work. When people without jobs give up looking for work, they are no longer counted as unemployed.
The U.S. economy, the world's largest, is advancing steadily, but slowly, with many employers wary about hiring more workers. The government said 12 million workers remain unemployed.
White House economic adviser Alan Krueger said the latest jobs report is "further evidence" that the American economy is improving from the depths of the recession. That downturn in 2008 and 2009 was the worst period for the nation's economy since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But Kruger said that "more work remains to be done" to spur growth.
Key corporate leaders say their investment plans are uncertain as U.S. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders wrangle over end-of-year tax and spending issues that remain unresolved. The country is trying to avert what Washington is calling a "fiscal cliff" - $600 billion in mandated spending cuts and tax increases that would affect almost all American workers.