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Published: Friday, 1/4/2013

U.S. hiring picks up speed amid drop in jobless claims

'Fiscal cliff' negotiations didn't discourage firms

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — The U.S. job market showed resilience in three reports Thursday, suggesting it may be able to withstand a federal budget battle that threatens more economic uncertainty in coming months.

A survey showed private hiring increased last month, while layoffs declined and applications for unemployment benefits stayed near a four-year low.

The data led some economists to raise their forecasts for December job growth one day before the government releases its closely watched employment report.

“The job market held firm in December despite the intensifying ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “Businesses even became somewhat more aggressive in their hiring at year-end.”

The most encouraging sign came from payroll processor ADP.

Its monthly employment survey showed businesses added 215,000 jobs last month, the most in 10 months and much higher than November’s total of 148,000.

Economists tend to approach the ADP survey with some skepticism because it has diverged sharply at times from the government’s job figures. The Labor Department releases its employment report today.

Some economists were hopeful after seeing businesses were less inclined to cut jobs last month. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said that the number of announced job cuts fell 43 percent in December from November; overall layoffs in 2012 fell to the lowest level since 1997.



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