"The steady improvement in weekly claims won't matter one bit if the economy enters the new year with fiscal cliff-induced uncertainty," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG LLC, wrote in a note to clients. "Claims will shoot higher as businesses shift staffing levels in front of an anticipated drop in demand during the beginning of next year."
The U.S. economy has endured weak growth since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the economy grew at a better-than-expected 3.1 percent annual pace from July through September. It has grown at a tepid 2.1 percent pace the first nine months of the year.
Economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics don't expect much progress in 2013. They expect the economy to expand at a 2.1 percent pace next year. They expect unemployment to remain high, averaging 7.7 percent next year.