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Jobs report finishes off strong 2015

The U.S. economy finished the year with a hiring spree, adding 292,000 new jobs, as the unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent.

The U.S. economy finished the year with a hiring spree, adding 292,000 new jobs, as the unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent.

The latest jobs report by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics exceeded the expectations of economists and investors, and provided a reassuring note about the resiliency of the labor market, even amid volatile oil prices, a major slowdown in China and modest overall growth at home, according to the Washington Post.

In all, the nation added 2.65 million jobs in 2015, the second-best year for hiring since 1999 and one that improved markedly in the last quarter, the Post reported.

The economy added an average of 284,000 new monthly positions between October and December; in the first three-quarters of the year, the monthly pace was 200,000. Meantime, the unemployment rate stands at its lowest point in more than seven years.

The jobless rate, which has declined since topping the 10 percent mark in October 2009, is now hovering just above what economists consider full employment — the point where further declines could start to push up inflation, according to The New York Times.

Though markets now see a slightly higher chance that the Federal Reserve will raise rates in March, traders and investors still expect rates to increase by only about half of a percentage point in 2016, according to CME Group data.

The Fed, by comparison, anticipated a full percentage point rise this year at its latest meeting in December, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, told the WSJ that if the labor market “can continue to stage this kind of improvement and if there’s confidence that inflation will truly firm, then it isn’t unreasonable to expect that the central bank will follow through on its own forecast for as many as four rate hikes this year.”

But he added that the “economic stars really have to be aligned just right” for that scenario to materialize.

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