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Employment kept up the pace in December, with the U.S. economy creating 252,000 jobs to close out the year, while the unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent. The U.S. was expected to create 240,000 jobs in December, after adding an unexpectedly strong 353,000 jobs the prior month. The unemployment rate was seen falling to 5.7 percent from 5.8 percent a month earlier.

Businesses had been creating jobs at a monthly pace of 224,000, though wage growth remained modest and the drop in the headline rate had come in large part due to a decline in the labor force participation rate. Indeed, the participation rate continued its plummet, falling to a fresh 36-year low of 62.7 percent. Job quality did not fare well either, with wages actually declining for the month by 5 cents an hour. However, the amount of full-time workers surged by 427,000 while part-time positions dropped by 269,000.

Professional and business services led the way, with 52,000 new positions. Construction added 48,000, while bars and restaurants hired another 44,000 workers. The holiday shopping season did nothing to help the retail trade, however, with the Labor Department reporting little change in payrolls after a jump in November.


-- Jeff Cox, CNBC