The economy created 146,000 jobs in November, nearly doubling expectations, according to a Friday report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The top-line employment figures exceeded analyst expectations, which factored in a significant drag caused by Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall on the east coast on October 29. But the unemployment rate actually dropped two points to 7.7 percent, and the Department of Labor explicitly cautioned that its "analysis suggests that Hurricane Sandy did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November."
The promising headline numbers, however, were partially offset by weak internals in the survey, which included downward revisions to the previous two payroll reports. BLS now reports that the economy created 132,000 jobs in September, down from its initial estimate of 148,000; and 138,000 jobs in October, down from its initial estimate of 171,000.
BLS' household survey -- a separate survey the government uses to gauge the strength of the labor market -- reports a slight drop in both employment and the size of the labor force.
Despite some weak internal figures, including an uptick in the employment to population ratio, the report comes as a welcome surprise given the consensus that exogenous factors, like Sandy and the looming fiscal cliff, have hamstrung the labor market in recent weeks.
November job growth was strongest in the retail trade, professional and business services, and health care sectors, according to BLS
The payroll report says retail trade employment grew by 53,000 jobs, professional and business services climbed 43,000, and health care employment increased by 20,000.
Because of the size of the labor market, the initial reports are marked by a degree of uncertainty nearly equal to the reported increase in employment.