A new report is raising hopes the government's official report Friday on last month's job creation could be a blockbuster.
The private payroll firm, Automatic Data Processing, says companies added nearly 300,000 jobs in December.
While some economists see reasons to doubt the numbers, the ADP report and another showing strength in service industries are generating optimism the unemployment rate might start to fall.
Economists say it takes up to 300,000 new jobs a month to reduce the jobless rate significantly.
There's other good news. The Labor Department said last week the number of people applying for unemployment benefits had fallen to its lowest point in two and a half years. And the staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said Wednesday layoffs fell last month to the lowest level since June 2000.