Hiring numbers finish year on up note

(AP) The United States capped its best year for hiring in 15 years with a healthy gain in December, and the unemployment rate hit a six-year low. The numbers support expectations that the United States will strengthen further this year even as overseas economies stumble. Employers added 252,000 jobs last month and 50,000 more in October and November combined than the government had previously estimated, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent from 5.8 percent in November. The rate is now at its lowest point since 2008. Still, wage growth remains weak. Average hourly pay slipped 5 cents in December. And one reason the unemployment rate fell had nothing to do with more hiring: Many of the jobless gave up looking for work and so were no longer counted as unemployed.

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