U.S. job growth accelerates with December gain

U.S. job growth continues to accelerate, pushing down unemployment rates.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls grew 200,000 in December as the jobless rate retreated to 8.5 percent.

Based on the results of monthly employer surveys, the private sector added 212,000 jobs. But government employment continued to trend downward with a net loss of 12,000 positions.

The initial estimate for job gains in November was revised downward 20,000 to 100,000. But the estimate for October was revised upward 12,000 to 112,000. The new numbers bring total gains in nonfarm payrolls over the past year to 1.6 million, an average of more than 133,000 a month.

The unemployment rate, determined by a separate household survey, fell two-tenths in December from a revised 8.7 percent the month before. The jobless rate has dropped nine-tenths of a percent over the past year, falling to its lowest level since February 2009.

For December, job gains were reported in several industry sectors.

Employment in transportation and warehousing rose 50,000, while retail trade added 28,000 jobs. The manufacturing and health sectors each reported gains of 23,000 positions. Payrolls in the leisure and hospitality sector grew 24,000. Mining employment rose 7,000.

Employment was little changed in the professional and business services or construction sectors.

The average workweek for employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged up a tenth of an hour in December to 34.4 hours. The average manufacturing workweek also rose a tenth to 40.5 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private nonfarm payrolls roseĀ 4 cents to $23.24. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 2.1 percent.