NEW YORK — Hiring surged in November as employers added 321,000 jobs, crowning 2014 as the strongest year for job growth since 1999.
The unemployment rate remained steady at 5.8%, according the government report released Friday. That’s down from 7% this time last year.
Hiring blew out the consensus forecast from economists surveyed by CNNMoney, who expected a gain of 228,000 jobs.
The U.S. economy has been gaining an average of 224,000 jobs a month over the past year. Any month with job gains over 200,000 is considered strong.
Americans found employment in a wide array of industries. Professional and business services added 86,000 positions, with particularly strong hiring in accounting and book keeping.
Retail trade employment rose by 50,000, thanks largely to increased hiring by car dealerships and clothing stores. Many companies added more payrolls this fall, anticipating a stronger holiday shopping season. Wal-Mart added 10% more seasonal staffers than last year, while Kohl’s hired 34% more. UPS and FedEx are also augmenting their ranks more than last year.
Encouraging signs: Many employers are putting out the “Help Wanted” sign. Take Sitel, a global customer service outsourcing firm headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.
Sitel is so busy fielding its clients’ customer inquiries that it is adding 5,700 jobs in the U.S. to the roughly 13,000 positions it has now. Nearly all the domestic jobs are full-time with benefits, Erickson said.
Looking ahead to 2015, Erickson expects to continue adding staff.
“I don’t see any slowdown,” he said.
Young workers still struggle: While hiring is picking up, many of the jobs aren’t high-paying ones. Millennials, in particular, have lost ground, according to a new report from the Young Invincibles, an advocacy group for that generation.
Median annual wages have fallen in nearly all of the most popular industry sectors that employ 25 to 34-year-olds over the past decade.
In retail and wholesale trade, which employs the largest share of these older Millennials, median wages plummeted 15% to $25,000. Wages in the leisure and hospitality industry fell 5% to $18,000. Only healthcare, the second most popular field, saw wages grow, albeit by a paltry 2% to $30,000.
“They are not finding the jobs they need to set them up for their long-term financial future,” said Konrad Mugglestone, co-author of the report.
Workers over 35 also saw wages fall in many industries, but the declines were not as steep.