Private sector employers added 215,000 jobs in December, beating expectations, as construction surged and businesses of all sizes added workers, according to a monthly survey by payroll-processing company ADP.
In another report Thursday, the Labor Department said weekly claims for unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to 372,000 in the latest week.
The hiring reflected in the ADP report defied expectations that companies were holding back because of worries about the fiscal cliff, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which produces the report with ADP.
The construction industry alone added 39,000 workers during the month. In the last year, private employers have added 1.7 million jobs, ADP said.
``Most encouraging is the revival in construction jobs, although the December gain was likely lifted by rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy,'' Zandi said. ``The job market ended 2012 on a more solid footing."
Stock index futures trimmed their losses on the news.
ADP also revised its estimate of November hiring, saying companies added 148,000 workers during that month. That's 30,000 more than the original estimate released in early December.
The report comes a day ahead of the government's closely-followed report on employment. Economists' consensus forecast predicts the report will show the economy gained 150,000 jobs last month while the unemployment rate held steady at 7.7%.
By Tim Mullaney