WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy added 146,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008. The government said Superstorm Sandy had only a minimal effect on the figures.
The Labor Department's report on Friday offered a mixed picture for the economy.
Hiring remained steady during the storm and in the face of looming tax increases. But the government said employers added 49,000 fewer jobs in October and September than initially estimated.
And the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low in November from 7.9 percent in October mostly because more people stopped looking for work and weren't counted as unemployed.
There were signs that the storm disrupted economic activity. Construction employment dropped 20,000. And weather prevented 369,000 people from getting to work -- the most in almost two years. They were still counted as employed.
Stock futures jumped after the report. Dow Jones industrial average futures were down 20 points in the minutes before the report came out at 8:30 a.m., and just after were up 70 points.
DeMint resigns: Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, a tea party favorite known for bucking party leaders to back challenges to centrist veterans he didn't view as conservative enough, said Thursday he was resigning to take the helm of a conservative think tank. The South Carolina lawmaker said in a statement he was stepping down to become president of the Heritage Foundation. His office said his resignation is effective Jan. 1. DeMint was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and easily re-elected six years later. He previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms.
Obama approval rises postelection: A month after the bitterly fought election, President Barack Obama has his highest approval ratings since the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll, and more Americans say the nation is heading in the right direction now than at any time since the start of his first term. Obama's approval rating stands at 57 percent, the highest since May 2011, when U.S. Navy SEALs killed the terror leader, and up 5 percentage points from before the election. And 42 percent say the country is on the right track, up from 35 percent in January 2009. A majority think it's likely that the president will be able to improve the economy in his second term.
Marine pleads to taking bribes: Federal prosecutors in San Diego said U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Gilbert Mendez has pleaded guilty to accepting $150,000 in bribes from contractors while stationed in Iraq. The U.S. attorney's office said the 36-year-old Mendez pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to defraud the United States. Mendez worked as a contracting officer at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006 and 2007.
Driver won't be charged: Officials of a West Texas city where four wounded veterans died when a train slammed into their parade float say the driver of the truck towing the float won't be charged. Midland spokesman Sara Higgins says no charges will be filed against Dale Andrew Hayden, of Midland. She also said the police report on the crash soon will be sent to the Midland County district attorney. Assistant District Attorney Steve Stallings told the Midland Reporter-Telegram (http://bit.ly/SCeuSM) that no decision on charges will come until the report is completed.
Kirk to return to work Jan. 3: Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a major stroke a year ago that required months of intense physical and speech rehabilitation, will return to work in Washington on Jan. 3, aides said Thursday. Kirk had indicated previously that he'd be back next month but hadn't specified a date. His aides confirmed the date on Thursday, saying in a brief statement that the Republican "remains on track to be back when the Senate convenes on Jan. 3rd for the 113th Congress." His office provided no other details. Kirk's doctors -- and outside medical experts -- have said that the 53-year-old has made excellent progress.
General to head CentCom: President Barack Obama has tapped Gen. Lloyd Austin III, the general who oversaw the final troop withdrawal in Iraq, to direct the end of the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan. Austin , currently vice chief of staff of the Army, would become the next top U.S. commander for the Middle East if the Senate confirms his nomination. Austin would be the first African-American general to lead U.S. Central Command. An experienced combat leader, Austin headed the 3rd Infantry Division that marched into Baghdad in March 2003. He returned to Iraq in February 2008 for a year, and then deployed there again in late 2010 as the top commander, directing the final troop withdrawal and the end of the war. Austin also served in Afghanistan from 2003 through 2005, leading the 10th Mountain Division.
Chrysler guarantees headlight switches: Government safety regulators have closed an investigation into headlights that can go dark on older Chrysler minivans. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Chrysler is offering a lifetime guarantee on the headlight switches, and that will take care of the problem. The government began investigating 2005 and early 2006 Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan minivans in 2011 after getting complaints about headlights failing. More than 620,000 vans could have the problem. It was traced to bits of plastic getting caught in headlight switches. The problem worsens as the vehicles get older, and can be fixed by turning the headlights on and off.