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U.S. Unemployment At 7 Percent; 203K Jobs Added In November

The U.S. unemployment rate now stands at 7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, coming down from 7.3 percent in October to hit its lowest mark in five years. Employers added 203,000 jobs to payrolls in November, the agency says.

"Employment increased in transportation and warehousing, health care, and manufacturing," the Department of Labor says.

The job growth reflects a gain of about 3,000 more jobs than in October; the figures for that month were revised today from the initially reported 204,000 jobs to 200,000.

The 7 percent unemployment mark is the lowest monthly jobless rate since November 2008, when it stood at 6.8 percent, according to BLS figures.

The results beat economists' estimates -- a CNN Money survey had predicted 183,000 jobs had been added. Analysts also expected an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent.

A decrease in the number of people who said they were temporarily laid off fell by 377,000 -- an effect of the end of furloughs sparked by a partial government shutdown.

Update at 9:15 a.m. ET: Possible Effect On The Fed's Stimulus

As with other signs of a strengthening U.S. economy that have come out this week -- from GDP growth to a narrower foreign trade gap -- today's news could build anticipation that the Federal Reserve might taper its stimulus program.

"It's a significant report for the Fed to decide whether to begin winding down its bond-buying stimulus program," NPR's Yuki Noguchi tells Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition. "They'be been buying $85 billion month in mortgage-backed securities -- which is basically like a money spigot, putting money back into the economy. And they've been debating when to turn that money spigot off."

Economist Hugh Johnson says that "it's anybody's guess" when the Fed moves to taper off that stimulus buying. Before that happens, the central bank wants to be sure the U.S. recovery is sustainable, he says.

"It could be this month, we could see it at the end of January that they begin to taper," he tells our Newscast unit.

But Johnson also says he believes the Fed will keep its target interest rates at rock-bottom levels for the next year, even as it reins in the stimulus buying program. And he reminds us that it's all because of good economic news.

"We have four successive months where we've got increases in jobs being created in the manufacturing sector of the economy," Johnson says, "and even more than that of construction employment being on the increase. And that's very good news, or prospects, for 2014."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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