The U.S. economy added 320,000 jobs in November, blowing past expectations and spurring the Dow Jones and S&P to reach record highs.
The tightening labor market also seems to be putting upward pressure on wages. Hourly earnings rose by 0.4% to $24.66 in November, compared 0.1% to the previous month. But wages still have a ways to go, having risen only 2.1% on average over the past year.
Over the last 12 months, job growth has averaged 224,000 per month, suggesting that the pace of the recovery is picking up steam. Analysts predicted that the economy would add only 230,000 jobs last month.
Job gains were widespread, led by gains in professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and manufacturing” the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in the report. Major areas of job growth included temp services (+23,000 jobs), car dealers (+11,000) and food services (+27,000).
The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.8%. The jobs report Friday came after recent news that the U.S. economy grew at a fast clip in the third quarter than initially estimated.
"This keeps a pace so far this year that we have not seen since the 1990s," Obama said of the jobs report Friday at an event nominating Ashton Carter to be the next U.S. defense secretary. "So far this year, over the first 11 months of 2014, our economy has created 2.65 million jobs. That's more than in any entire year since the 1990s. Our businesses have now created 10.9 million jobs over the past 57 months in a row. And that's the longest streak of private sector job growth on record."
While Obama praised the jobs gains, he said that more work needed to be done to raise wages. "We've got an opportunity to keep up this progress if Congress is willing to keep our government open, avoid self-inflicted wounds and work together to invest in the things that supports faster job growth and high-paying jobs."
Income stagnation has prompted states and cities across the country to raise wages. Voters in four red states approved minimum wage hikes in the midterm elections, and Chicago voted to raise its minimum wage to $13 an hour earlier this week.
House Speaker John Boehner also criticized the lack of progress in wage growth. "While it's welcome news that more people found work last month, millions still remain out of work, and middle-class families across the country, including my home state of Ohio, are struggling to get by on wages that haven’t kept pace with rising costs," he said in a statement.
President Obama and congressional Democrats have spearheaded an effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, but Senate Republicans blocked legislation in April that would have boosted the minimum wage. Obama has taken executive action on the issue, raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.