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Employers added workers in December at about the same pace as the prior month, and the unemployment rate matched a four-year low, showing sustained gains in the U.S. labor market even as lawmakers were struggling to reach a budget deal.

Payrolls rose by 155,000 workers last month following a revised 161,000 advance in November that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 82 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase of 152,000. The unemployment rate held at 7.8 percent, matching the lowest since December 2008.

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