The Labor Department announced Friday that employers added a net total of 200,000 nonfarm jobs in December while the unemployment rate rate fell to 8.5 percent from a revised 8.7 percent in November, USA Today reported.
According to CNNMoney, economists had forecast 150,000 jobs to be added in December, and had expected the unemployment rate to tick up to 8.7 percent.
December was the sixth consecutive month in which the economy added more than 100,000 jobs — which isn't enough to restore employment to pre-recession levels, reported The New York Times.
The economy gained 1.6 million jobs in 2011, and according to revisions to the Labor Department's data, the unemployment rate has fallen for four consecutive months.
Private businesses have been adding jobs since March 2010, while the government has been cutting jobs. According to CNN, while private employers added 212,000 jobs, the public sector cut 12,000.
Though it appears that the US has not been drastically affected by the troubles in the euro zone, according to The Times, if there is a severe slowdown there, it could still be a threat to the US. Moreover, Congress may decline to continue the extension of the payroll taxbreak and the unemployment benefits that have given families a boost, The Times reported.
However, economists are still optimistic that this is a sign of good things to come.
“This is the real thing,” said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics to The Times. “This is finally the economy throwing off the shackles of the credit crunch.”
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Watch below to see how the December hiring boost pushed the unemployment rate to its lowest level in nearly three years: