Oil prices fell for a third consecutive day on Friday, to below $76 a barrel, under pressure from high levels of inventories and nervousness ahead of the latest employment data from the world's top energy consumer, the United States.

U.S. crude futures fell 64 cents to $75.83 a barrel by 1201 GMT. Brent crude dipped 45 cents to $77.91.

Most other commodities as well as equity markets dipped as investors nervously awaited the U.S. jobs data due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT). Gold and the dollar held steady.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Thursday a recent private sector payroll report signaled November unemployment level may tick up from October's 10.2 percent.

We always look at the data closely to see global economic situation and the U.S., said Olivier Jakob at Petromatrix.

Unemployment is not good for oil consumption. You need to have people go to work, drive cars and spend money at shopping malls.

The U.S. economy has come out of recession but unemployment is lagging and has yet to turn.

A Reuters poll concluded about 130,000 jobs were lost in November compared with 190,000 in October.

Jakob also pointed out that high oil inventory levels in the United States, especially at the delivery point of U.S. crude at Cushing, Oklahoma, have been putting more pressure on U.S. oil prices than North Sea benchmark Brent crude.

Oversupply and the fragile state of global economy will be among the issues for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) when it meets on Dec 22. Analysts expect no change in its output policy.

OPEC's Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri told Reuters on Thursday the group should be cautious as it needs to balance signs of economic recovery and abundant supplies.

He said oil inventories remained above their five-year average and there were 165 million barrels of crude and products floating at sea, equal to almost two days' global demand and more than some estimates.

In terms of prices, the current band of $70-$80 is satisfactory, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters in Cairo.

Right now you see the price is okay between $70 and $80, it's close to the target we set, it's almost $75 -- it's good, Naimi said, referring to the $75 level that he has said suited producers and consumers.