US added 155,000 jobs in December, Canada beats expectations

U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in December, a modest but continuous gain that shows hiring kept moving forward during tense fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington.

The steady job growth, however, wasn't enough to reduce the unemployment rate, which stayed at 7.8% last month, according to the Labor Department's report Friday.

Analysts say this fact highlights the need to extend unemployment benefits as a result of the recent fiscal cliff deal as well as the U.S. Federal Reserve’s ongoing efforts to stimulate the economy.

Job creation was spread across a range of industries, with healthcare adding 45,000 positions, restaurants creating 38,000 jobs, construction 30,000 and manufacturing 25,000.

The report also showed that job losses in the government sector continued, with 13,000 jobs cut.

Canada beats expectations

The neighbour up north did much better.  According to Statistics Canada, employment rose by 40,000 in December, the fourth increase in five months.

The unemployment rate fell 0.1% to 7.1%, the lowest in four years, according to the agency.

Compared with 12 months earlier, employment increased 1.8% or 312,000, all in full-time work. Over the same period, the total number of hours worked rose 1.6%.

Provincially, employment increased in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island in December. At the same time, there was a decline in Nova Scotia.

The Canadian dollar jumped to a session high against its U.S. counterpart after the report was released. The Canadian currency was trading at Cdn$0.9876 to the greenback, or $1.0126, compared with Cdn$0.9880, or $1.0121, at Thursday’s North American close.