U.S. economy adds 200,000 jobs, sends unemployment lower

The U.S Department of Labor Friday morning revealed another piece of good economic news: 200,000 new U.S. jobs were created in December and unemployment ticked down to 8.5 percent.

The unemployment rate is now within almost half a percent of where it stood when President Barack Obama was elected — and it’s an important measure of whether he could be re-elected this fall.

This is the sixth consecutive months that the U.S. economy has added at least 100,000 jobs, according to The New York Times, and while the growth is still too slow to send unemployment dramatically lower, coupled with other good economic news, it’s a sign the economy may finally be ready to start growing again.

“The employment report built on a flurry of heartening economic news in December, when consumer confidence rose, manufacturing came in strong and small businesses showed signs of life,” the Times reported.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. economy added 1.6 million jobs during all of 2011, better than the 940,000 added in 2009. For the year, the economy had an average unemployment rate of 8.9 percent — better than the average rate of 9.6 percent that yearbeofre.

Economists are predicting 2.1 million jobs could be added in 2012, the AP said.

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