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Jobless Rate Edged Higher In December

Unemployment inched up to 4.7 percent in December, but 1997 nevertheless entered the record books as a terrific year. American joblessness hasn’t been lower in peacetime since 1957.

While Clinton administration officials acknowledged that 1998 might not be as good, Friday’s report underscored the economy’s fundamental health. Average monthly unemployment last year - 4.9 percent - matched rates of 1973 and 1970. It hasn’t been lower since 1969, when production for the Vietnam War pushed the rate to 3.5 percent. And it hasn’t been lower in peacetime in four decades.

Employers added a robust 370,000 jobs in December, bringing U.S. payrolls to 123.9 million. That’s 3.2 million more than a year earlier, the largest number created since 1994.

Job gains were widespread. Construction companies added 50,000 jobs, manufacturers 39,000, retailers 52,000 and finance, real estate and insurance firms 23,000.