Washington — The U.S. unemployment rate dropped further in December as employers added a healthy batch of new jobs, closing out a tumultuous year with some hopeful signs for the long wobbly economy and sluggish labor market.
The Labor Department said Friday that the jobless rate edged down to 8.5% in December from a revised 8.7% in November. The unemployment rate has fallen steadily since August, when the rate was 9.1%, based on the revisions.
Last month, the economy produced 200,000 new net jobs. That’s an acceleration from 100,000 jobs added in November and an average growth of 137,000 jobs a month for all of 2011. While a good chunk of last month’s new hires were seasonally related, in warehousing and retail, manufacturing and healthcare employers also reported solid job gains.
The latest jobs report adds to the body of evidence that the economy perked up in the fourth quarter, thanks to strong manufacturing and business investments, as well as resilient consumer spending.