Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 155,000 jobs in December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, but that was not enough to lower the unemployment rate of 7.8 percent as the pace of hiring appeared to remain steady.

Employment increased in health care, food services and drinking places, construction, and manufacturing last month. However, the number of unemployed persons, at 12.2 million, was little changed in December. The unemployment rate held at 7.8 percent and has been at or near that level since September.

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