US unemployment rate down; jobs up modestly

US businesses boosted payrolls modestly in December, and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent -evidence, President George W. Bush said, of the economy's resiliency in the face of last year's hurricanes and high energy costs. For all of 2005, employers added 2 million new jobs. The employment report released by the Labor Department on Friday suggested that the job market headed into the new year in pretty good shape, analysts said. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials closed up 77.16 points. December's jobless rate was down from November's 5 percent rate. Payrolls grew by 108,000 last month - a figure that was restrained by job losses in construction, which were blamed on bad weather in some parts of the country, as well as job cuts in retailing. Employers, however, ended up adding 71,000 more jobs in October and November combined than previously reported. That took the sting out of December's figure, which was about half of what had been expected.
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