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Consumer Confidence Helps Drive Down Jobless Rate

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The national unemployment rate is at its lowest level in 2 1/2 years.

The U.S. Labor Department says the jobless rate fell in November to 8.6 percent, down from 9 percent the month before.

With employers adding 120,000 last month and 100,000 the month before, CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker takes a look at the face on the newly employed.

"I am enormously grateful to have a job," says Doreen Baker, director of development for Asian Human Services.

Baker just got the job in October, after two years of unemployment.

It's especially rewarding, she says, "to get up in the morning and have things to do that day, but know that I'm really making a difference."

Baker's among the thousands recently hired and helping the unemployment rate drop to its lowest in more than two years.

"Fundamentally, businesses are getting stronger," says expert John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

He says consumers are buying more products and services.

"We had a surprisingly positive Black Friday and Cyber Monday," Challenger says. "That was a sign that consumer confidence was stronger than expected, and it's a sign that for our economy, there may be better things to come."

Challenger admits that many of the jobs in retail are seasonal. But he says some may become permanent if business stays good.

Retail isn't the only sector adding jobs. Challenger says the list also includes health care, technology, hospitality and professional and business services.

Baker credits her success in finding a job to networking.

"You never know where the opportunity will come up," she says.

Baker says she also found help in her job search by signing up with the Career Transitions Center of Chicago.

While some of the news on the job front is good, experts point out that the decline in unemployment rate is also partly due to 315,000 workers dropping out of the labor force.

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