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US jobless rate falls to 5.6pc in best year since 1999

By AFP, Washington
11th-Jan-2015       
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The US unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent in December, the lowest level in six and a half years, as the country capped its best year for job creation since 1999.
In a fresh sign that the United States is creating more distance with the weakness in Europe and elsewhere, the Commerce Department said Friday that the economy churned out 252,000 jobs last month.
Together with upward revisions of the previous two months -- 50,000 more jobs than previously reported-December capped the best year for job generation in 15 years, with almost three million net new jobs added.
That helped push the unemployment rate down 0.2 percentage point from November, representing a sharp fall from 6.7 percent a year ago, and the 10.0 percent peak in October 2009.
"2014 ends with a bang," cheered Chris Low at FTN Financial, pointing out that even industries that might have suffered from the sharp oil price decline still showed strength.
The job gains were strongest in professional and business services, restaurants and bars, and the construction industry, underscoring the healthy growth in the US services sector, while gains in manufacturing were small.
However, hourly earnings, one sign of just how strong the economy is, fell back, almost totally reversing the previous month's surprise gain. Hourly earnings were up just 1.7 percent from a year ago, just keeping up with inflation.
In addition, the two-notch fall in the unemployment rate was in part due to more people exiting the US workforce. The participation rate in the civilian labor force fell to 62.7 percent from 62.9 percent, matching the previous low in the wake of the 2008-2009 Great Recession.
But analysts downplayed that data, saying the sheer number of jobs being generated in recent months will have to show up soon in higher wages.

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