The unemployment rate fell to 7.0% in November - the lowest mark since November 2008, as more people said they got jobs and joined the labor force. The U.S. economy added a total of 203,000 jobs in the month.

The hiring was widespread, with large growth in sectors that tend to pay low wages as well as those that offer higher salaries. While retailers, restaurants and bars all hired more workers, traditionally higher wage sectors boasted even stronger job growth.

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney had predicted payroll gains of 183,000 jobs.

The job market has improved for three years now, but at a slow pace. The latest report is encouraging news for the 11 million Americans who remain unemployed.

The federal government continued to cut jobs, but state and local governments more than made up for those losses, hiring 14,000 workers.

Only an estimated 63% of Americans over 16 participate in the job market - meaning they either have a job or are looking for one. This percentage is near its lowest levels since 1978, driven partly by Baby Boomers retiring, but also by workers simply giving up hope.

Economists hope that the consistently stronger hiring growth could convince some job market dropouts to look for work once again. The United States lost 8.7 million jobs in the aftermath of the financial crisis. As of November, it had gained about 7.4 million of those jobs back.

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