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Unemployment Rate Drops To 7.7 Percent, As Economy Adds 146,000 Jobs

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. That's a four-year low.

The economy added 146,000 jobs, beating expectations. Surprisingly the BLS said that Hurricane Sandy "did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November."

The BLS adds that employment increased "in retail trade, professional and business services, and health care."

Now, the headline from The Wall Street Journal is that this report from the BLS is the "least important jobs report in 5 years."

Why? First, the November data is "extremely noisy." Even without Hurricane Sandy, the Journal points out, the report includes increased hiring for the holidays as well as the jobs of poll workers during the election. Speaking of which this report comes after the elections, so the political ramifications are less urgent.

The bottom line, one economist Bloomberg spoke to said, is that the country is making progress on the jobs market, even if "it's not as fast as policy makers would like."

Bloomberg adds:

"The unemployment rate in November was forecast to hold at 7.9 percent, according to the [Bloomberg] survey median. Projections ranged from 7.9 percent to 8.1 percent.

"The poll of households, used to calculate the jobless rate, showed that 369,000 people were not at work because of bad weather during the survey week. The average of the last 10 Novembers was 70,000. The Labor Department said it conducted the survey a week earlier than typical because of the Thanksgiving holiday."

Update at 11:33 a.m. ET. The Caveats:

As with all these things, this good report comes with many caveats. We've already touched upon the "noise." The Washington Post has five other caveats. An important one that blunts the good news in this report is that many Americans dropped out of the job market.

The Post reports:

"Slightly more Americans dropped out of the labor force in November, although the numbers were too tiny to draw hard conclusions. The participation rate dropped from 63.8 percent to 63.6 percent, essentially erasing last month's small gains. That caused the unemployment rate to drop — since the official unemployment rate only looks at those who are actively seeking work — but it's never a good sign."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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