US Job Market Improves

Posted January 5th, 2012 at 9:50 am (UTC-5)
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New economic data Thursday show the U.S. job market is getting a bit better.

The Labor Department says the number of Americans signing up for unemployment compensation dropped by 15,000 last week, to a nationwide total of 372,000. A separate measure that averages jobless claims over a four week period hit its lowest rate in three years.

Unemployment claims follow layoffs, and fewer layoffs may indicate that employers are growing more confident in the economy, and may begin hiring.

A separate report from a company called ADP that processes millions of U.S. paychecks shows that private employers added 325,000 jobs in December.

The upbeat reports come ahead of Friday's closely watched monthly report on the U.S. unemployment rate. Economists surveyed by news agencies predict the jobless rate will rise one-tenth of one percentage point, to 8.7 percent. While that is worse than the previous month, it is better than the same month one year ago.

The experts also predict that the economy will have a net gain of 150,000 jobs. Other reports have shown job gains in private companies, and losses in state and local governments that were hurt when the financial crisis cut their income from taxes.