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The U.S. economy added a higher-than-expected 312,000 jobs in December, while the unemployment rate edged up to 3.9 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday.

Job gains mainly occurred in health care, food services and drinking places, construction, manufacturing and retail trade last month, the bureau said. Wall Street analysts had expected an increase of about 180,000.

After an upward revision for nonfarm payroll employment in October and November, jobs gains averaged 254,000 over the past three months.

In December, average hourly earnings for all private-sector workers rose by 11 cents, or 0.4 percent, to 27.48 U.S. dollars. Over the year, average hourly earnings increased by 3.2 percent, the biggest growth since 2009.

Analysts said the unemployment rate seems to have risen because more people are joining the labor market. In the previous three months, the unemployment rate had remained at 3.7 percent, the lowest level in almost five decades. Enditem

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