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December Posts Strongest Job Gains Of 2013, Survey Shows

Job seekers have their resumes reviewed at a job fair expo in Anaheim, Calif., in June 2012.
Jae C. Hong
Job seekers have their resumes reviewed at a job fair expo in Anaheim, Calif., in June 2012.

This post was updated at 11:20 a.m. ET.

Last year ended on a high note for U.S. employment, with December ticking off 238,000 new private-sector jobs, topping the previous month for the best showing of 2013, according to the latest data from the ADP National Employment Report.

The survey from the payroll processing firm and economists at Moody's Analytics is "encouraging news that hopefully bodes well for 2014," Carlos Rodriguez, ADP president and CEO says in the report released Wednesday.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's, says: "The job market ended 2013 on a high note. Job growth meaningfully accelerated and is now over 200,000 per month. Job gains are broad-based across industries, most notably in construction and manufacturing. It appears that businesses are growing more confident and increasing their hiring."

On the nonfarm payroll, small businesses added 108,000 jobs, and the gains were roughly evenly distributed between the smallest companies (1-19 employees) and those with more workers (20-49). Medium-sized businesses added 59,000 jobs, and large ones gained 71,000. Companies with 500-999 employees actually shed 3,000 jobs, but the very largest ones (1,000-plus employees) made up the difference.

Professional/business services led the sector gains, adding 53,000 positions, followed by construction, which was hardest-hit during the recession — it added 48,000.

Boston University economics professor Peter Doeringer says the numbers point to a "gradual improvement" in the economy.

"While some fluctuations in this number can be expected in the future, and we still face uncertain congressional decisions regarding the federal budget and the debt ceiling, the signs of recovery are accumulating," Doeringer says.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set to release the latest employment figures on Friday. In November, employers added 203,000 jobs, and in a separate BLS survey, the unemployment rate for the month dropped to 7 percent, its lowest mark in five years.

Meanwhile, a three-month extension of federal unemployment insurance passed a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday, garnering the necessary 60 votes to move forward for further consideration. If the measure makes it through both the Senate and the House, it would restart checks to some 1.3 million of the long-term unemployed.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.