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By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Private-sector job growth accelerated in December with U.S. businesses adding 241,000 net new jobs, payroll firm Automatic Data Processing said Wednesday.

The figure was an increase from 227,000 in November, which was revised up from an initial estimate of 208,000.

Economists had forecast December job growth to be 235,000.

“The job market continues to power forward,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which assists ADP in preparing the report.

The ADP data is watched closely as a harbinger of the Labor Department’s jobs report, which covers private- and public-sector hiring and is scheduled to be released Friday.

Economists expect that report to show job growth slowed in December to 245,000 after a surprisingly strong November in which payrolls expanded by 321,000.

If they’re close to correct, December would be the 11th straight month the economy added more than 200,000 net new jobs

The unemployment rate is forecast to have ticked down to 5.7% last month, which would be the lowest since mid-2008.

ADP said there were broad-based job gains in December.

Manufacturers increased their payrolls by 26,000, up from 16,000 in November.

Another high-paying job sector, construction, increased its hiring as well.

Firms added 23,000 net new jobs in December, compared with 20,000 the previous month.

The service sector also boosted its hiring, adding 194,000 net new jobs after a 187,000 increase in November.

AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan

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