I don't have quite as much time as usual to look forward to the December jobs report the federal Labor Department will issue bright and early Friday at 5:30 a.m. West Coast time.
But I can run through what I think the number will be.
For the record, in November the U.S. added 146,000 new jobs, while the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent.
On Thursday, ADP, a private payrolls processor, reported that the U.S. added 215,000 jobs in November. A consensus of economists Bloomberg surveyed expects 155,000 new jobs and anticipates that the unemployment will rise slightly, to 7.8 percent (probably because optimism about employment will bring people back to the job hunt, raising the labor participation rate, now at lows not seen since the early 1980s).
The economy itself is a mixed bag. Retail sales, for big players like Target and Barnes & Noble, were weak during the holiday season (although the jury is still out on whether the entire season was a major disappointment). But the U.S. economy expanded at a stronger pace in the third quarter than previously thought, suggesting that a very sluggish recovery from the Great Recession could be gaining steam.
December new car sales in the U.S. were also strong.
This gets us 200,000 jobs in December, I'm predicting, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the unemployment rate does tick up a bit.