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U.S. payrolls increased by 216,000 in December, much better than expected

The U.S. labor market closed out 2023 in strong shape as the pace of hiring was even more powerful than expected, the Labor Department reported Friday.

December’s jobs report showed employers added 216,000 jobs for the month while the unemployment rate held at 3.7%. Payroll growth showed a sizeable gain from November’s downwardly revised 173,000.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for payrolls to increase 170,000 and the unemployment rate to nudge higher to 3.8%.

The report, along with revisions to previous months’ counts, brought 2023 job gains to 2.7 million, or a monthly average of 225,000, down from 4.8 million, or 399,000 a month, in 2022.

Markets reacted negatively to the report, with stock market futures sliding and Treasury yields sharply higher.

The hiring boost came from a gain of 52,000 in government jobs and another 38,000 in health care-related fields such as ambulatory health care services and hospitals. Leisure and hospitality contributed 40,000 to the total, while social assistance increased by 21,000 and construction added 17,000. Retail trade grew by 17,000 as the industry has been mostly flat since early 2022, the Labor Department said.

On the downside, transportation and warehousing saw a loss of 23,000.

This is breaking news. Please check back here for updates.

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