Early Unemployment Data Lifts Hope for Job Growth

The number of newly-unemployed workers seeking unemployment benefits fell last week by 20,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 331,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was below economists' expectations of 335,000 and lifted hopes that Friday's jobs report will show strong growth.

Last month's job's report was disappointing, showing that the economy added just 74,000 jobs in December. Employment data, however, can be highly volatile, and many economists predict that last month's numbers will be revised upwards as other economic data—like GDP growth figures—point to a stronger economy.

"The sharp slowing in payrolls in the December employment report was not due to a weaker trend," Jim O'Sullivan, Chief U.S. Economist at Hi Frequency Economics, wrote in a note to clients Thursday morning. O'Sullivan predicted Friday's jobs report will show the economy added a healthy 220,000 new jobs in January.

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