WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. unemployment rate edged down to 7.7 percent in November, the lowest it has been in four years, the, Labor Department reported Friday.
The report said 146,000 jobs were added, a moderate gain that helped the rate drop from October's 7.9 percent, but observers say it came down mostly because an increased number of people stopped looking for work.
The November rate was the lowest since December 2008, when it was 7.3.
The Labor Department said there were 12 million people listed as unemployed, a figure little changed from October. For the long-term unemployed, those out of work for 27 weeks or longer, the count comes to 4.8 million, also little changed.
The department said the civilian workforce declined by 0.2 percentage points to 63.5 percent in November, offsetting a similar increase in October. Total employment was also unchanged after a gain of 1.3 million in September and October.
The jobs added in November were about half as many as economists say are necessary to lower the unemployment rate, explaining that a recent downward movement in the rate has been attributed more to frustrated workers giving up their search for jobs.
The department said employment growth has averaged 151,000 per month for the year.
For November, retail added 53,000 jobs, contributing to a gain of 140,000 over the past three months. Professional and business service jobs are up by 43,000. Healthcare added 20,000 jobs, less than the monthly average for the sector.
Wholesale trades gained 13,000 jobs, hospitality added 23,000, adding to a gain of 305,000 over the past 12 months.
But cornerstone industries of construction and manufacturing did less well. Construction lost 20,000 jobs in November while manufacturing "changed little," with 10,000 new jobs in automobile manufacturing, but 9,000 fewer in chemical manufacturing and 12,000 fewer in food processing.