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December jobs report: Hiring and unemployment steady

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The job market ended 2012 with more growth, as moderate hiring continued at the end of the year.

The economy added 155,000 jobs in December, bringing the total number of jobs added in 2012 to 1.84 million, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate held steady at 7.8%.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected the report to show that 150,000 jobs were created last month and the unemployment rate remained unchanged.

Friday’s report reflected revisions the Labor Department made for 2012, which included raising the November unemployment rate to 7.8%, up from the original 7.7%.

The private sector continued to drive the growth, adding 168,000 jobs, while government employers shed 13,000 positions. Employment increased in health care, food services and drinking places and manufacturing. Construction jobs were also up, likely as a result of rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy.

Friday’s report appeared a day after a separate survey by payroll processor ADP showed private employers boosted their hiring last month, adding 215,000 jobs.

But December’s overall figures were only slightly better than 2012’s average growth of 153,000 per month, which mirrored the 2011 pace. That’s not enough to make a significant dent in the unemployment rate, economists said.

“The overall picture is that the labor market remains lackluster,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist with Capital Economics.

There remains a deep hole left by the financial crisis and millions are still out of work. The number of long-term unemployed stayed essentially unchanged at 4.8 million, or 39.1% of the jobless.

One bright spot in the report, economists said, was that average hourly earnings rose 2.1% in 2012.