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U.S. Job Growth Far Exceeds Expectations In December

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Employment in the U.S. spiked by much more than anticipated in the month of December, according to a closely watched report released by the Labor Department on Friday.

The Labor Department said non-farm payroll employment soared by 312,000 jobs in December after climbing by an upwardly revised 176,000 jobs in November.

Economists had expected employment to increase by about 177,000 jobs compared to the addition of 155,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

The stronger than expected job growth reflected job gains in the healthcare, food services and drinking places, construction, manufacturing, and retail sectors.

Paul Ashworth, Chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, suggested the substantial job growth in December would "seem to make a mockery of market fears of an impending recession."

"Admittedly, employment is a coincident indicator, whereas the ISM manufacturing index, which we learned yesterday fell sharply in December, is a leading indicator," Ashworth said.

He added, "But, even allowing for that distinction, this employment report suggests the U.S. economy still has considerable forward momentum."

The report said the unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent in December from 3.7 percent in November, while economists had expected the unemployment rate to come in unchanged.

However, the unexpected uptick by the unemployment rate came as the labor force jumped by 419,000 people compared to a much more modest 142,000-person increase in the household survey measure of employment.

The Labor Department also said average hourly employee earnings climbed by 11 cents to $27.48 in December, reflecting a 3.2 percent increase compared to the same month a year ago.

The annual rate of growth in average hourly employee earnings in December accelerated from the 3.1 percent increase seen in November, reaching its highest level since April of 2009.

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