The latest news from the U.S. Department of Labor is spreading a bit of holiday cheer: The nation's economy added 146,000 jobs in November, dropping the U.S. unemployment rate to 7.7 percent, the lowest level since December 2008.
The retail sector added 53,000 jobs as the holiday season started, and there were additional gains in professional services like computer-systems design and health care. On the down side, the construction industry shed 20,000 jobs, while manufacturers cut 7,000 positions.
This morning's news caught a number of analysts off guard. They had presumed that superstorm Sandy would have a dire effect on November hiring.
Markets opened on a modest high on the news, with the Dow Jones average up 0.33 percent and the Standard & Poors index ahead 0.25 percent.