The January labor report is released on Friday and many economists expect nonfarm payrolls to rise by 188,000. Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG, expects a slightly lower 175,000 increase in jobs for the month, coming off of December's blowout 292,000 headline number, which crushed estimates of 200,000.
"It's kind of a tough month to try and guess," Blitz said. "There were a lot of seasonal adjustments that basically boosted the numbers in December and those mis-adjustments that were big positives in December become negatives in January."
Blitz said the average of both December and January's number will give a better sense of the labor market's health. "The difference between 175,000 to 188,000 to 200,000 is essentially the same number," he said.
With monthly job reports, revisions to prior months is something economists pay close attention to. The revisions revealed in December's report were quite large on the upside, with October's nonfarm payroll figured changed to plus 307,000 instead of 298,000 and November revised to 252,000 from 211,0000. These changes netted the economy an extra 50,000 jobs.
"It wouldn't surprise me if December got revised lower," he said. "When we look at personal income numbers and wage and salary disbursement growth in that month -- none of it really seems to run with the notion that we had that type of job gain in the month of December."
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve will be watching Friday's report in the context of its second rate hike. The Fed raised short-term interest rates for the first time since 2006 back in December. Since then, a slide in oil prices and worries about China's economy have derailed global markets, leaving the Fed in tough spot as it looks to make roughly four rate hikes in 2016.
"I think [a March liftoff] is off the table, especially if the equity market stays around current levels and then [the Fed will] see what June brings," Blitz said.
Also released in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' report on Friday is the latest reading on average hourly earnings, which were unchanged in December. Analysts expect a 0.3% rise in January.