The American labour market improved in November, defying expectations of a pullback in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, with the economy adding 176,000 non-farm jobs last month.
But in a sign that main street was still feeling far from upbeat, consumer confidence plunged in early December.
This indicated anxiety about higher taxes as politicians in Washington debate ways to lessen the impact of the more than $600bn (£373bn) in automatic hikes and spending cuts due to kick in at the beginning of 2013.
The labour department said the jobless rate fell by 0.2 per cent, pushing American unemployment down to 7.7 per cent, the lowest since December 2008.
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