Employment in the private sector rose by 212,000 jobs in December 2011, reducing the unemployment rate two-tenths of a percentage point to 8.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the lowest unemployment rate since February 2009. Job gains were mostly in transportation and warehousing, retail, manufacturing, health care and mining.

Employment in professional and business services changed little in December, for the second month in a row. The industry added, on average, 42,000 jobs per month during the first ten months of 2011. Government employment changed little in December, but it was down by 280,000 jobs over the year. Job losses in 2011 occurred in local government; state government, excluding education; and the U.S. Postal Service.

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