Jobless claims dropped, stabilized last week

When applications fall below 375,000, economists argue that the labor market is healthier, with a hiring pace by employers fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate, which now sits at 7.8 percent.  

Overall, applications this year have mostly remained stuck right around the 375,000 figure, with some larger drops and jumps. 

The employment picture, despite a drop to below 8 percent for the first time during President Obama's tenure, is still struggling to gain solid footing. 

The Federal Reserve has pledged to buy up abut $40 billion in mortgage-backed assets each month until the job market makes a significant improvement. 

Businesses have expressed concern about hiring until Congress can solve the fiscal-cliff issues of scheduled spending cuts and tax increases set for 2013. 

During the final presidential debate on Monday, Obama said he expected an agreement. 

He told the Des Moines Register that a "grand bargain" could be completed within the first six months of next year. 

"We’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business," he told the paper.

Meanwhile, GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has targeted the president's economic record and argued that, under his policies, the nation will see 12 million new jobs. 

Last month, employers added 114,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent. 

The October job report is due out Nov. 2, only a few days before the election. 

There are other signs that the economic recovery is picking up steam, many across the steadily improving housing market from builder confidence to new and existing home sales. 

Consumer confidence also is on the rise, as well as spending, with holiday forecasts expecting healthy gains this season.