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U.S. nonfarm payrolls expand by 155,000 jobs in December; jobless rate at 7.8%

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch)
The U.S. economy created 155,000 jobs in December - matching its two-year average - and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.8%, the government said Friday
Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected an increase of 160,000 jobs last month
The unemployment rate, originally reported as 7.7% in November, was changed to 7.8% after the Labor Department's annual revision conducted each December
The unemployment rate over the course of 2012 was little changed, however
The number of new jobs created in November, meanwhile, was revised up to 161,000 from 146,000, while October's figure was revised down to 137,000 from 138,000
The biggest increases in hiring in December occurred in health care, bars and restaurants, construction and manufacturing
The retail sector and government reduced employment
Average hourly wages rose 7 cents, or 0.3%, to $23.73 while the average workweek edged up by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours

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WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - A gauge of employment trends rose in December, but current job growth may be difficult to keep up, according to a monthly labor-market report released Monday by the Conference Board. The New York-based private research group said its employment-trends index, which is designed to forecast turning points in employment, increased 0.77% in December. "After posting a significant increase in December, following an upward revision in November, the employment trends index is improving," said Gad Levanon, macroeconomic research director at the Conference Board. "However, if economic activity continues to expand slowly in the first half of 2013, it would be difficult for employers to maintain the current rate of job growth." The employment-trends index is made up of eight labor-market indicators, four of which made positive contributions in December. December's index level is up 3.1% from last year. The index reached 109.02 in December, compared with 100 in 1996.