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Companies added more workers than projected in December as U.S. employers grew more optimistic about the prospects for demand, a private report based on payrolls showed Wednesday.

The 238,000 increase in employment was the biggest since November 2012 and followed a revised 229,000 gain in November that was stronger than initially estimated, according to the ADP Research Institute. The December tally exceeded the most optimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey in which the median projection called for a 200,000 advance.

A pickup in hiring coupled with wage gains are helping to spur faster growth in the consumer purchases that make up almost 70 percent of the economy. A Labor Department report this week may show private payrolls rose by 197,000 last month, according to the Bloomberg survey median.

“The job market ended 2013 on a high note,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement. Moody’s produces the figures with ADP. “Job gains are broad-based across industries, most notably in construction and manufacturing. It appears that businesses are growing more confident and increasing their hiring.”

The December gain brought the 2013 average to 179,600 compared with 163,000 per month in the previous year, according to ADP data.

Construction increased head count by 48,000 in December, the biggest gain since February 2006. Factories added 19,000 jobs. Goods producers in 2013 added 286,000 workers, with almost 75 percent of the gains coming from the construction industry, ADP said. Employment in trade, transportation and utilities increased 47,000. Professional and business services employment rose by 53,000, the most since November 2012.