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Job Growth on Tap?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With the market eagerly awaiting the government's latest appraisal on the U.S. job market Friday morning, the buzz in some circles is that the economy will have added jobs for the first time in two years in December.

If the median estimate is to be believed, the Labor Department's nonfarm payrolls report will show no change in December, according to a Reuters survey. The nation's headline unemployment rate could advance by a tenth to 10.1%. But individual forecasts are varying widely ahead of the release, with some forecasts anticipating little change, one showing 100,000 jobs gained and another reflecting a cut of 80,000.

"I think the market will be content with a plus or minus 25,000, somewhere in that range," said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald. "Neither losing or gaining many jobs and an unchanged unemployment rate at 10% is all that they really need. A plus number would get people a little excited."

>>See Our Interactive Unemployment Map

But the variance hasn't halted the feeling among several observers that a positive jobs figure is imminent after the most recent report showed a surprisingly slender 11,000 jobs lost in November.

"We believe it's already in the process of turning," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management, who's forecasting that 25,000 jobs were added. "It looks like the trend is there to get to something like that."

The labor market is bleak, to be sure. The nation's unemployment rate will probably remain vexing for some time, and six-figure job growth per month is needed just to stabilize the environment over the long-term. But recent indicators have done nothing to dampen the mood that a rebound is underway and can only support more upbeat, short-term valuations. Already this week, the employment component of the ISM manufacturing index showed gains in December .
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