WASHINGTON — Total nonfarm payrolls expanded more slowly in November than expected, rising by 39,000 jobs as the unemployment rate climbed to 9.8%, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Private payrolls added 50,000 and government payrolls dropped by 11,000. Economists expected nonfarm payrolls to grow 138,000, private payrolls to rise 140,000, and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 9.6%, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

The economy must create 115,000 to 125,000 jobs a month just to make room for new workers joining the national labor force for the first time, according to Anthony Chan, chief economist for JPMorgan Private Wealth Management.

Average hourly earning for all employees increased by 1 cent in November to $22.75. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.3 hours. Economists expected average hourly earnings to grow 0.2% and the workweek to remain at 34.3 hours for all employees.

October and September payrolls were revised upward by a combined 38,000.
“The recovery is still lackluster and in need of support,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, said Friday. “I fully expect today’s data to push Congress to extend unemployment benefits, along with all of the Bush tax cuts, in the coming weeks.”

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