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Private-sector job growth slows, jobless claims plunge in mixed labor market data

Private-sector job growth slows, jobless claims plunge in mixed labor market data

Private-sector employers unexpectedly slowed their hiring in December, but jobless claims fell to near a four-decade low as new data sent mixed signals about the labor market ahead of Friday’s jobs report.

U.S. companies added 153,000 net new jobs last month, down significantly from 215,000 in November, payroll firm Automatic Data Processing said Thursday. Analysts had expected a smaller drop, to about 172,000.

At the same time, the Labor Department said Thursday that applications for first-time unemployment benefits fell to 235,000 last week from 263,000 the previous week.

Last week’s figure was near a 43-year low of 233,000 reached in November and marked the 96th...

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