The U.S. has added more jobs in 2014 than in any year since the dotcom bubble year of 1999.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning that payroll employment, adjusted for seasonal variation, grew by 321,000 in November, crushing economists' expectations for roughly 230,000.
Including strong revisions to recent months, the economy has added 2.65 million jobs on the year with a month left to go, eclipsing the growth of 2005 and setting the highest mark since the late 1990s.
The unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent, as 119,000 people entered the labor force, according to the BLS' household survey.
November's report adds to the evidence that job creation has accelerated throughout 2014, following a prolonged weak and fragile recovery from the financial crisis in 2008.
Job growth has averaged a blistering 278,000 over the past three months, and over 240,000 for 2014 so far, well above the roughly 195,000 average for 2013, which had been the best rate of the recovery up to that point.
Those gains have been enough to lower the unemployment rate by 1.2 percentage points over the past 12 months. That improvement includes a decline of nearly a third in the number of long-term unemployed. The 2.8 million people who have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer make up nearly a third of the total unemployed, a very high share by historical measures.
November’s gains were evenly distributed across industries, according to the BLS’s survey of businesses, which is subject to revisions in future months as more responses come in. Some of the hiring was in low wage industries: Business services added 86,000 jobs and retail employment grew by 50,000. But job creation also took place in sectors that traditionally have higher pay, including healthcare (29,000), and manufacturing (28,000).
There was also good news on wages, which have barely kept pace with inflation throughout the recovery, in the establishment report. Average hourly earnings were up 0.4 percent in November. It remains to be seen whether wage growth will increase as the unemployment rate declines. At $24.66, average hourly earnings have risen 2.1 percent in the past year, right in line with the trend and just above the rate at which consumer prices have risen.
The details from the survey of households included in Friday's report were less brilliant than the headline gain in jobs, although still encouraging.
A broader measure of underemployment that includes people forced into part-time work or only marginally attached to the labor force, ticked down from 11.5 to 11.4 in November. That rate, known as the U-6 rate, has dropped from 13.1 percent this time last year.
There are 6.9 million people working part-time because they had their hours cut or because they couldn't find full-time work, 177,000 fewer than in October and nearly a million fewer than a year ago.
Officials at the Federal Reserve watch the jobs report closely for signs about the direction of the labor market. Chairwoman Janet Yellen and other officials have said that their decision to raise short-term interest rates from zero for the first time since the financial crisis will be based on continued improvement in the jobs outlook as well as inflation.
This story was first published at 8:35 a.m. and has been updated.