A better-than-expected jobs report shows that 2011 ended with a bang: The unemployment rate fell to 8.5% last month, the lowest since February 2009, and 200,000 new jobs were added, the Wall Street Journal reports. The jobs report was expected to be solid, but not this solid: Unemployment had been expected to rise from 8.6% to 8.7%, and 150,000 new jobs were forecasted, according to the AP. More good news: October's jobs were revised upward by 12,000, but November's were revised downward by around 2,000.
The hiring gains also mean that, for six months straight, the economy grew by 100,000 jobs or more per month—a feat that hasn't occurred since April 2006, the AP notes. Overall, 2011 saw 1.6 million jobs added, an improvement on 2010's 940,000. The unemployment rate averaged 8.9% in 2011, compared to 9.6% in 2010. This year is predicted to be even better, with economists forecasting 2.1 million jobs added. (Read more jobs stories.)