Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the East Coast just over a month ago, and economists expected the storm's impact to be felt in the November jobs numbers.
Forecasting a gloomy report, experts said the superstorm's impact on hiring and unemployment in the impacted region, which makes up one-fifth of the U.S. economy, would skew November's numbers, sending them upward over 8 percent again.
Instead, economists are waking up to the news that the unemployment rate is at the lowest it has been in about four years.
The U.S. economy added 146,000 jobs in November and the rate fell to 7.7 percent, a figure not seen since December 2008. It also marks the third consecutive month of numbers under 8 percent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says Hurricane Sandy did not substantially impact the national unemployment rate.
Not all of the news was good; the number of discouraged workers went up from October to November, and the number of long-term unemployment (those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more) stayed about the same. And with the fiscal cliff looming--and both parties' horns locked over how a solution should be handled--there is a lot of economic uncertainty going into the new year.
But many experts say that if the fiscal cliff is avoided, economic growth could accelerate in a more obvious way in 2013, meaning that Friday's numbers when viewed alongside September's and October's numbers may be seen in hindsight as a hint that the country is on the path to recovering from the Great Recession.