WASHINGTON - The nation’s businesses cranked up hiring in November after a twomonth lull, a sign the labor market is back in the groove as the ill effects of the Gulf Coast hurricanes fade.
Employers expanded payrolls by 215,000 jobs last month, the most since July. The unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent.
The Labor Department’s fresh snapshot of the jobs situation, released Friday, suggested employers are in a better hiring mood now that energy prices have retreated from record highs and disruptions to commerce from the hurricanes are easing.
For President Bush — confronted with some of the lowest job approval ratings of his presidency — recently improving economic news hasn’t helped his standing with the public.
Bush embraced Friday’s employment report. ‘‘We have every reason to be optimistic about our economic future,’’ he said.
The rebound in jobs follows other good economic news of late. A government report earlier this week showed the economy grew at a robust 4.3 percent pace in the third quarter, its best performance in more than a year, despite the hurricanes.
In an encouraging sign for job seekers overall, the average time that the unemployed spent searching for work in November was 17.7 weeks. That was down from an average 18.1 weeks in October and was the best showing since July.
THE LATEST ON JOBS
What happened: Employers expanded payrolls by 215,000 jobs last month, the most since July. Where the jobs are: November’s employment gains were broad based. Construction, retail, leisure and hospitality, education and health services, financial activities and even manufacturing all posted increases in jobs. What’s the pay: Workers average hourly earnings increased to $16.32 in November, up 3.2 percent from the same month last year. That was the biggest rise since March 2003.