Minnesota's job market ended 2012 on an upswing in November and December, setting a pace for annual job growth in the state that surpassed the national average by a solid margin.

Employers added another 9,100 jobs in December, the state said Thursday, with retail hiring leading the way. November job gains were also revised upward from 10,800 jobs to 12,300 jobs.

The state's unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent, from a revised 5.6 percent in November.

"The state labor market is growing at a brisk pace, gaining more than 21,000 jobs in the final two months of 2012," said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, in a statement. "Minnesota is recovering jobs well ahead of the rest of the country and is positioned to stay on that course in coming months."

Thursday's report offers a first look at 2012 as a whole, and the preliminary results are encouraging. The state's employers added 51,900 jobs in 2012. Growth on the year was 1.9 percent, compared with a national average of 1.4 percent.

Health care providers did the most hiring on the year, but durable goods manufacturing, construction and technical and scientific professions all posted solid gains.

"We have developed some momentum in the last couple months that was sorely lacking through the middle of the year," said Steve Hine, labor market economist for DEED.

Retail added a seasonally-adjusted 3,500 jobs in December, professional and business services added 2,500, education and health added 1,800 and manufacturing added 1,400. The only major sector to lose jobs in December was construction, where employment fell by 3,500.

In a subtle but significant development, the average workweek in the state grew by half an hour. That increase is the equivalent of about 35,000 new jobs, Hine said.

Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz