WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US unemployment rate in November fell to its lowest level since August 2007 as the economy continued to add new jobs, all but guaranteeing an interest rate hike this month.
The jobless rate fell three-tenths to 4.6 per cent, with a solid 178,000 net new positions created, in line with analysts' expectations, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Nonfarm payrolls have increased at an average rate of 180,000 a month so far this year, a healthy pace but below the 229,000 rate since in 2015.
The drop in the unemployment rate appeared sudden as it had shown little movement over the past year, and the number of people in the workforce - the labour force participation rate - was little changed at 62.7 per cent.
Private payrolls added 156,000 in the latest month, with continued gains in construction and health care.
The level of unemployment is well below what monetary policymakers generally consider "full employment," which has created concerns that inflation is imminent, though there have been only modest signs of price pressures.
In another sign that inflation is tame, average hourly earnings declined 0.1 per cent to US$25.89 (S$36.8), the first drop in wages since December 2014.
US monetary policymakers have repeatedly signalled that they are likely to increase interest rates at their final meeting of the year Dec 13-14.
The Federal Open Market Committee refrained a planned course of rate hikes in 2016 for fear of interrupting a fragile recovery and in the absence of wage and price pressures. Committee members have been divided however on the danger posed by inflation and the timing of the next rate hike.