WASHINGTON — The U.S. job market is looking more resilient and may withstand a budget battle in Washington that threatens to create more uncertainty in the coming months.
A trio of reports Thursday showed private hiring increased last month, while layoffs declined and applications for unemployment benefits stayed near a four-year low. The data led some economists to raise their forecasts for December job growth one day before the government releases its closely watched employment report.
The job market held firm in December despite the intensifying fiscal cliff negotiations, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.
ADP's monthly employment survey showed businesses added 215,000 jobs last month, the most in 10 months and much higher than November's 148,000.
Economists tend to approach the ADP survey with some skepticism because it has diverged sharply at times from the government's job figures.
But outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said that the number of announced job cuts fell 43 percent in December from November, and overall planned layoffs in 2012 fell to the lowest level since 1997.
Most economists expect the Labor Department report will show employers added about 150,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate stayed at 7.7 percent.
Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, raised his forecast for job growth in December to 190,000 jobs, up from 150,000.
Credit Suisse increased its forecast to 185,000, up from 165,000.
Meanwhile, sales of new cars and trucks are expected to reach 14.5 million for 2012, up 13 percent from the year before.
The once-battered housing market is recovering, which should lead to more construction jobs this year. Companies ordered more long-lasting manufactured goods in November. And Americans spent more in November.