Initial jobless claims tick up slightly

Although the pace of layoffs isn't shifting much, employers are showing a reluctance to hire because of the overhanging uncertainty surrounding congressional action on the fiscal cliff — a combination of possible tax increases and scheduled spending cuts. 

Business groups have released several surveys recently that detail their concerns about tax and spending issues. 

Congress is set to return the week after the November elections to begin work on, at least, a short-term solution, which would likely lead to an extension of all current policy until the details are worked out next year. 

Economists argue that initial claims at or below 375,000 reflects a healthier job market.

Unemployment has remained stuck above 8 percent since early 2009 and is a major hurdle for President Obama's reelection efforts. 

In a separate report released Wednesday, ADP Employer Services said the private sector hired 162,000 workers in September, a figure that will probably be above the government's estimates.