The economy added jobs at a blistering pace last month, and wages rose. That could push the Fed to hike interest rates sooner than expected. Fred Katayama reports.
A blowout surprise: Employers hired workers at a blistering pace last month, adding 321,000 jobs. That's the most in nearly three years and significantly higher than the 230,000 expected for the last jobs report of the year. Adding more sparkle: Employment gains in the previous two months were revised upward. And the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent. All this came despite an economic slowdown of its trading partners in China and Europe. Long-stagnant wages, which Fed chair Janet Yellen watches very closely, rose much more than expected, up 0.4 percent. Conference Board economist Gad Levanon says that could push Fed officials to hike interest rates as early as spring. (SOUNDBITE) GAD LEVANON, MANAGING DIRECTOR, LABOR MARKETS, CONFERENCE BOARD (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It certainly pushes a little closer to the present. I think, you know, with employment growth strong, with the unemployment rate declining rapidly, and, finally, we see fueling wage growth starting to accelerate ... If we have a few more months like we had in November, I wouldn't be surprised if the Fed starts raising rates in the spring of 2015." The gains were broad-based. As usual, the lower paying services sectors like retail and restaurants and bar saw big increases in payrolls. But in a positive sign, the higher paying manufacturing and construction sectors gained momentum. On the other hand, the labor force participation rate that measures the share of the employed and those looking for jobs remained unchanged. Following the report, bond yields shot higher. So did the dollar against the yen and euro. And stocks opened higher.