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The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its December 2011 employment report this morning. The economy added 200,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent from 8.6 percent.
This wasn't the blockbuster 325,000 jobs-added number that the ADP report predicted yesterday. But it was much higher than the 125-150,000-ish consensus among various economists.
On the (slight) downside, the November jobs total was revised down to 100,000 from 120,000. That meant that the earlier 8.6 unemployment rate had to be revised to 8.7 for the period. Still, it's 8.5 now.
The big question is whether this momentum can be sustained — whether the jobless rate will keep edging down or inch back up. But it does start off 2012 on a positive note. So far, the markets have responded tepidly, suggesting that an improving employment situation is "priced in" — already accounted for — and that traders are more worried about Europe and its ongoing currency crisis than they are about jobs in the U.S.