In spite of Hurricane Sandy, which was expected to negatively affect the employment numbers, unemployment dipped two tenths of a point.
Although the severe storms in the Northeast in late October clipped economic activity and kept many workers at home, they had no major effect on the monthly employment statistics, the Labor Department said Friday.
Many analysts had forecast unemployment to rise to 8% with job growth of less than 100,000 for November.
The better-than-expected job gains came in part from unusually strong hiring by retailers, possibly reflecting the early start of the holiday shopping season this year.
Led by clothing stores, retailers added 53,000 jobs over the month. That was the highest for a November in five years and marked the second straight month of 50,000-plus payroll gains for the industry, reflecting the recent pickup in consumer confidence and expectations for solid holiday sales.