WASHINGTON — Friday will mostly shut the door on employment in 2013, and economists expect the Labor Department's monthly report to further confirm the trend of an economy on the upswing.
Reasons for optimism came this week. The ADP National Employment Report, a private-sector gauge of hiring, estimated 238,000 jobs added in December. That's a strong number, the strongest since November 2012, and points another solid number from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Then on Thursday, the Labor Department reported that first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 to 330,000. That's a number that indicates an economy where employers are reducing layoffs and boosting new hires. The four-week average on claims, a number that flattens out volatility, improved to 349,000 for the week ending Jan. 4.
The trend was already on the upswing, with November hires coming in at a stronger than expected 203,000, according to the government's last report. The unemployment rate fell in November to 7 percent, the lowest it'd been since November 2008 when the economic crisis was in full bloom.
Economic growth numbers were revised up in December, showing that the economy grew at a sizzling annual rate of 4.1 percent from July through September, and forecasters have been upping their growth projections for the final months of last year and for 2014.