U.S. payrolls for November surpassed even the most optimistic forecasts, increasing at the highest rate in more than two years, according to a government estimate.
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by a seasonally adjusted 321,000 in November, following an upwardly revised gain of 243,000 in October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. It was the biggest jump since January 2012.
September's employment growth also got a revision, climbing to 271,000.
For November, economists had predicted payrolls would grow by 230,000, with estimates ranging as high as 275,000.
According to the Labor Department, job gains were widespread across most sectors, led by the professional and business services sector.
Putting a damper on the good news was a climb in the number of unemployed Americans, which was estimated at 9.1 million, according to the government's household survey. The unemployment rate remained flat from October at 5.8 percent.
About 2.8 million of those unemployed persons have been jobless for at least 27 weeks, down slightly from October but still elevated at a share of 31 percent. Meanwhile, the number of "involuntary part-time workers"—those working part-time for economic reasons but who desire full-time work—fell by 177,000 to 6.9 million.
Overall, the civilian labor force participation rate held at 62.8 percent, keeping more or less in line with the trend of the past year.
An estimated 2.1 million Americans remain "marginally attached" to the labor force, meaning they want a job but have not looked in the last month. Among that group, nearly 700,000 gave up looking because they don't believe there's work available in their area.
The U-6 unemployment rate, which includes both marginally attached people and involuntary part-timers, barely ticked down to 11.4 percent for November.
Wages also presented a dismal picture. Average hourly earnings for all employees on nonfarm payrolls rose to $24.66 in November, up only 2.1 percent from last year.