WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- Will the December jobs report surprise the markets? A strong ADP report on private sector job growth Wednesday has certainly set up expectations for a big number. Companies added 297,000 jobs in December, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report. That was nearly three times higher than the 100,000 jobs economists were expecting. On Thursday, the Labor Department said initial weekly claims rose to 409,000 . But the overall trend has been down in the last several weeks, lifting hopes that layoffs were beginning to let up. Still, economists maintain a more modest estimate for hiring growth, as the ADP report has been known to widely diverge from that of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Economists expect the economy to have added 150,000 jobs in December, according to median consensus estimates available on Bloomberg as of Thursday morning. That is up from 135,000 ahead of the ADP report. Estimates will continue to be revised in the run-up to the report but largely ranged from as low as 98,000 to 240,000 on the higher end.
So what will it take to move the needle on Friday? John Canally of LPL Financial believes that a figure closer to the upper end of estimates, "something north of 215,000," will probably satisfy the market. An upward revision in the November jobs estimates would provide a further boost to sentiment. A weaker-than-expected November jobs report cast doubts on the recovery story last month, confounding experts who had forecast a stronger number amid evidence of an uptick in other areas of the economy. According to Patrick O'Keefe, director of economic research at audit firm J.H. Cohn and a former deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Labor, there are reasons to believe the November report was just a blip. Not only did the latest ADP report point to a stronger recovery in the jobs market, but the November report probably underestimated retail employment significantly. "Retail employment dropped in November, which is atypical for that time of the year," said O'Keefe. "The proportion of retail sales by e-tailing reached a record. But to have a negative month-to-month figure was certainly anomalous. The number was unduly weak, and the seasonal adjustment factors may have overshot," he said.