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U.S. employers, continuing a pattern of modest hiring, added 120,000 new jobs in November, the Labor Department said Friday.

The nation's unemployment rate, however, fell sharply to 8.6% from 9% in October. There was an unusually big drop in the number of people who reported being out of work. Many jobless people may have quit looking for jobs, and thus wouldn't have been counted as officially unemployed. Analysts expect the jobless figure to climb back up next month.

Strong holiday hiring boosted the new job tally last month. Retailers added almost 50,000 jobs, the second strongest November hiring by stores in a decade. Two other lower-paying sectors, temporary-help and leisure businesses, accounted for much of the rest of the job gains. Manufacturing payrolls were flat, and government continued to slash workers.

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