Has the job market finally hit its stride? Hiring continued at a solid pace in November, and the unemployment rate fell for the right reasons.
The U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs in November. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney had predicted payroll gains of 183,000 jobs.
The unemployment rate fell to 7 percent -- the lowest level since November 2008, as 818,000 people said they got jobs and 455,000 joined the labor force.
This is encouraging news for the 11 million Americans who remain unemployed. The job market has been improving for three years now, but at a frustratingly slow pace.
Still, the job market has a long way to go until it's entirely healed.
Only about 63 percent of Americans over the age of 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.
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.