December Payrolls Climb 200,000

Unemployment falls to 8.5%; hours worked, earnings rise.

U.S. employers added more workers to payrolls than forecast in December and the jobless rate declined to an almost three-year low, showing that the labor market gained momentum heading into 2012.

The 200,000 increase last month followed a revised 100,000 gain in November that was smaller than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed in Washington. The median projection in a Bloomberg News survey called for a December gain of 155,000. The unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 8.5 percent, the lowest since February 2009, while hours worked and earnings climbed.

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