U.S. employers cut only 11,000 jobs last month, the best showing in nearly two years, and the jobless rate edged down to 10 percent, a strong suggestion the jobs market was edging toward health.
The Labor Department said on Friday job losses for September and October were revised to show 159,000 fewer jobs lost than previously reported.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected non-farm payrolls to drop 130,000 last month and the unemployment rate to hold steady at a 26-1/2 year high of 10.2 percent.
U.S. stock index futures extended gains on the data, while Treasury debt prices fall sharply.
This is good news. People don't want to be hearing that pain is still spreading, said William Larkin, Portfolio manager at Cabot Money Management in Boston.
The data will take some pressure off President Barack Obama, a day after he appealed to the corporate sector, at a jobs summit he hosted, to join in the administration's employment creation efforts.
While the economy has resumed growth after four straight quarters of decline, there are concerns that labor market weakness will prevent the recovery from becoming self-sustaining. Government spending is largely driving the economy's recovery from the worst recession in 70 years.
Since December 2007, when the economy slipped into recession, 7.2 million jobs have been lost, the Labor Department said. But the pace of layoffs has slowed sharply from early this year. Analysts believe the bruised job market may be close to turning the corner, with jobs growth likely early next year.
November's data was the strongest since December 2007, when jobs increased by 120,000. Payrolls have fallen every month since then.
The improvement in the labor market last month was broad based, with four sectors, including the government, adding jobs. Manufacturing payrolls fell 41,000 after dropping 51,000 in October.
The construction sector shed 27,000 jobs, while the service-providing sector added 58,000 workers.
Professional and business services added 86,000, while education and health services increased payrolls by 40,000. Temporary help employment rose by 52,400.
The average workweek, which closely correlates with overall output and gives clues on when firms will start hiring, rose to 33.2 hours from 33 hours in October. That was the highest since February.
Average hourly earnings inched up to $18.74 from $18.73.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)