U.S. employment grew solidly last month, continuing a strengthening trend in the nation’s job market seen in the second half of 2011.
The economy’s payrolls increased by 200,000 in December, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday. The data surpassed economists’ expectations and mark a six-month stretch in which the economy generated 100,000 jobs or more in each month. That hasn’t happened since April 2006.
Adding to the upbeat tone of the report was news that the nation’s jobless rate slipped to 8.5 percent in December — its lowest level since February 2009 and down from a revised 8.7 percent reading for the previous month. The rate has dropped for four straight months.
However, the payrolls count for October and November was revised to show 8,000 fewer jobs created than previously reported, taking some edge off the data.
“There is no question that today’s employment report is a positive and there is also no question that the pace of job growth has accelerated of late,” said Dan Greenhaus, an analyst at BTIG LLC, a brokerage firm.
Expectations for a solid payrolls gain rose Thursday, when the private payrolls agency ADP said its own calculations for hiring gains were much stronger than forecast.
The closely watched employment report will likely cement views that economic growth accelerated in the fourth quarter after a tepid performance in the first nine months of 2011. However, the pace of job creation remains too slow to signal a robust economic recovery is finally under way.
The economy would need even faster job growth over a sustained period to make a noticeable dent in the pool of 24.4 million Americans who remain either out of work or underemployed 2-1/2 years after the end of the 2007-09 recession.An improvement in the U.S. labor market is crucial for the global economy because American consumer spending accounts for a fifth of the world’s economic activity. A recovery in the U.S. would also mitigate the impact of a sharp slowdown expected in Europe this year.
Read more: http://on.msnbc.com/wjUwwm