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WASHINGTON (AP) — The unemployment rate fell last month to its lowest level in more than two and a half years, as employers stepped up hiring in response to the slowly improving economy.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate dropped sharply to 8.6 percent last month, down from 9 percent in October. The rate hasn’t been that low since March 2009, during the depths of the recession.

Employers added 120,000 jobs last month. And the previous two months were revised up to show that 72,000 more jobs added – the fourth straight month the government revised prior months higher.

Still, one reason the unemployment rate fell so much was because roughly 315,000 people gave up looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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