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National unemployment rate declines to 8.5%

More jobs than expected were created in December as the national unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since February 2009.

According to the Employment Situation Summary released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm payroll rose by 200,000 in December, and the unemployment rate declined slightly to 8.5% -- down from a revised 8.7% in November.

Analysts and economists had expected about 150,000 new jobs in December. 

Construction employment changed little in December. Within the industry, nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 20,000 jobs over the month, mostly offsetting losses over the prior two months.

The unemployment rate has declined by 0.6 percentage point since August 2011.

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