By Vicki Needham - 01/03/13 01:54 PM EST
Service-providing jobs again led the way, with an addition of 187,000 last month.
November's figures were revised upward by 30,000, to 148,000.
The government is set to release its figures that combine public- and private-sector growth on Friday.
Zandi said he is perplexed as to why the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations, which ended on New Year's Day when the House cleared a compromise measure, didn't stymie the job market's steady growth during the past several months.
Instead, businesses chose to pull back their investment spending. Business groups continue to argue for a broader agreement that includes issues such as entitlement reform and provides the economy with a much-needed boost starting off 2013.
Construction around the recovery for Hurricane Sandy and a gradually improving housing market boosted the construction numbers, which have struggled to get back above water since the recession ended in June 2009.
Still, Zandi warned that this job market is "not off and running" and that modest job growth of around 150,000 a month can be expected through the first few months of the year, especially as Washington faces another trio of deadlines — raising the debt ceiling, the end of a two-month delay of sequester spending and an omnibus spending bill to cover the rest of the fiscal year.
Negatives on the report included a loss of 11,000 manufacturing jobs and a loss of 6,000 positions at small businesses with fewer than 19 employees, which have expressed heightened concern about the regulatory environment.
Overall, businesses with 49 or fewer employees added 25,000 jobs in December, medium-size companies hired 102,000, and large companies — those with 500 or more employee — increased by 87,000.
Factory activity picked up in December but has shown signs of weakness since mid-summer. Hiring levels rebounded after contracting for the first time since September 2009, according to the Institute for Supply Management's report released on Wednesday.