Although the U.S. economy created fewer jobs than expected in November, most industries still added to their payrolls last month — with white-collar businesses leading the way.
The Labor Department said in its Friday report that employers added 210,000 jobs last month, sharply missing economists' expectations for a gain of 550,000. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell to 4.2%, the lowest level since February 2020 when the pandemic shut down a broad swath of the nation's economy.
The labor market had been gaining momentum after a delta-induced slowdown over the summer, but the latest figure represents a significant drop from October's upwardly revised number of 546,000 and September's upwardly revised 379,000. There are still about 3.9 million fewer jobs than there were last February, before the crisis began.
Professional and business services accounted for some of the biggest gains last month, with payrolls jumping by 90,000. The increases were widespread across the industry: Management and technical consulting firms added 12,000 jobs, scientific research and development increased by 3,300 and computer systems design and related services rose by 9,500.
There were also solid gains in transportation and warehousing, which increased by 50,000, boosted by the hiring of couriers and messengers who deliver packages (26,800) and warehousing and storage facilities (8,800).
Construction also jumped by 31,000 last month with gains throughout the sector including civil engineers (8,100), building construction (10,000), and contractors (13,000).
But retail employment saw a net drop of 20,000 last month on a seasonally adjusted basis, despite the upcoming holiday season. The biggest losses took place at clothing stores (a decline of 17,700) and department stores (down by 7,500).
"Notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction and manufacturing," the Labor Department's report said. "Employment in retail trade declined over the month."
Leisure and hospitality, one of the hardest-hit sectors that has become a bellwether of sorts for the economy's recovery, saw a gain of just 23,000 new jobs last month. Restaurants and bars saw an increase of 11,000, while hotels added more than 6,000 jobs last month. By comparison, the sector added 170,000 new jobs in October. In all, it has recovered about 7 million of the jobs it lost during the pandemic, but remains about 1.3 million below its February 2020 level.
"The slowdown in leisure and hospitality job gains in November was a large contributor to the overall slowdown," said Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor. "Holiday hiring was also mixed in retail and transportation & warehousing as strong consumer spending was not enough to drive consistent jobs growth."