Jobs banner hangs on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Getty)
Doug Carroll, USA TODAY
The economy ended 2012 with 155,000 more jobs last month and a 7.8% unemployment rate.
In November, the unemployment rate was 7.7%.
Ahead of today's Labor Department report, many economists had forecast the economy added 150,000 to 160,000 jobs overall in December. But job market data released Thursday raised the prospect of a positive surprise.
Payroll processor ADP on Thursday said its monthly survey found private employers added 215,000 jobs last month, far more than expected. And outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said announced job cuts in December fell 43% from November to the second-lowest monthly total of the year.