Jobless Rate Dips To 8.5 Percent, 200,000 Jobs Added To Payrolls

The nation’s unemployment rate edged down to 8.5 percent — its lowest level in nearly three years — as 200,000 jobs were were added to payrolls, the Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported.

We’ll add more details from the report shortly, so hit your “refresh” button to see our latest updates.

Update at 8:55 a.m. ET. Some Early Analyses:

— “U.S. employers added more workers to payrolls than forecast in December and the jobless rate declined to an almost three-year low, showing that the labor market gained momentum heading into 2012.” (Bloomberg News)

— “Employment grew solidly last month.” (Reuters)

— “Job growth accelerates.” (The Wall Street Journal)

Update at 8:52 a.m. ET. But “Long-Term Unemployed” Number Remains Large:

“The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 5.6 million and accounted for 42.5 percent of the unemployed,” BLS says.

Update at 8:49 a.m. ET. Discouraged Workers:

The number of “discouraged workers” — those who have given up looking for jobs because they don’t think there are any to be found — declined from 1.3 million a year earlier to 945,000 in December, BLS says.

Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. Looking Back:

At 8.5 percent, the jobless rate is the lowest since February 2009’s 8.3 percent.

Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. Where The Jobs Were.

According to BLS:

“Employment in transportation and warehousing rose sharply in December (+50,000). Almost all of the gain occurred in the couriers and messengers industry (+42,000); seasonal hiring was particularly strong in December.

“Retail trade continued to add jobs in December, with a gain of 28,000. Employment in the industry has increased by 240,000 over the past 12 months.

“Over the month, job gains continued in general merchandise stores (+13,000) and in clothing and clothing accessories stores (+11,000). …

“In December, manufacturing employment expanded by 23,000.”

All those figures are “seasonally adjusted” to hopefully account for expected changes and better reflect the underlying trends.

Update at 8:38 a.m. ET. Private Sector Employment Rose By 212,000 Last Month, 1.9 Million In 2010:

“Over the past 12 months,” BLS says, “nonfarm payroll employment has risen by 1.6 million. Employment in the private sector rose by 212,000 in December and by 1.9 million over the year.”

Update at 8:36 a.m. ET. Slight Revision To November Rate: BLS says the unemployment rate dipped from a revised 8.7 percent in November (earlier, BLS had said the November jobless rate was 8.6 percent).

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