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HELENA -- The state Labor Department says Montana's unemployment rate has dropped for a fifth straight month.

Montana's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December fell 0.3 percentage points to 6.8 percent in December. The national unemployment rate was 8.5 percent in December.

Labor Commissioner Keith Kelly said Tuesday that the state's employment growth gained momentum in the second half of 2011, in part due to a strong agricultural economy and the oil activity in the eastern part of the state.

December's job counts show more than 7,000 jobs added last year, including 1,660 jobs in December.

Kelly said the strong employment growth in the last half of 2011 signals an even stronger economy ahead.

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