A burst of hiring in December pushed the unemployment rate to its lowest level in nearly three years, giving the economy a boost at the end of 2011.
The Labor Department said Friday that employers added a net 200,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, the lowest since February 2009. The rate has dropped for four straight months.
The hiring gains cap a six-month stretch in which the economy generated 100,000 jobs or more in each month. That hasn’t happened since April 2006.
The steady drop is a positive sign for President Obama, who is bound to face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any sitting president since World War II. Unemployment was 7.8 percent when Mr. Obama took office in January 2009.
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