The U.S. economy soldiered ahead by adding 200,000 jobs over December, lowering the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent as more employers picked up seasonal staff members for the holidays.[IMAGE]
The ""Labor Department"":http://www.dol.gov/ reported Friday that total private-sector employment reached 212,000 last month, alongside fewer jobs for local and state governments, marginal declines in real estate services, and a notable pickup in residential construction around the country.
The report follows a tide of higher expectations for job growth. ""ADP"":http://www.adp.com/ released estimates that the U.S. economy may have added more than 300,000 jobs.[COLUMN_BREAK]
Real estate, rental and leasing services lost jobs by 1.3 percent on average in December, while real estate as an industry slashed its employment figures by 1 percent.
Construction served up Friday's biggest numbers, with a 17-percent surge overall last month. Residential construction job figures climbed by 2.5 percent, as specialty contractors added 17.3 percent on the whole.
""Today's employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,"" ""Alan Krueger"":http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/cea/about/members, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement.
""It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007,"" he added.
The other side of the aisle rebuffed any attribution of the improvement to the Obama administration.
""I think our economy is overcoming what Barack Obama is pushing in its place,"" ""_The Wall Street Journal_"":http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2012/01/06/santorum-applauds-jobs-growth-not-obama/ quoted GOP presidential candidate and former Sen. ""Rick Santorum"":http://www.ricksantorum.com/ (R-Pennsylvania) as saying in response to questions.