Nearly three times the number expected by most analysts, the private sector added 297,000 jobs in December, payrolls firm ADP data showed on Dec. 5.
The increase marked the fourth straight month of gains in payrolls, offering hope that the jobs sector, still struggling in the post-recession recovery, is gaining traction.
"This month's ADP National Employment Report suggests nonfarm private employment grew very strongly in December, at a pace well above what is usually associated with a declining unemployment rate," ADP said.
Analysts expected the Labor Department to report on Jan. 7 that the unemployment rate slipped to 9.7% in December, from 9.8% in November, and the economy added nonfarm 135,000 jobs, up from 39,000.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011