Jobless applications increase slightly

Economists argue that the labor market is healthier when applications fall below 375,000, with a hiring pace that is fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate, which now sits at 7.8 percent, falling 0.7 percent points last year. 

After two weeks of data estimating over the holidays, the Labor Department said all states reported last week. 

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Employers added 155,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate stuck at 7.8 percent. 

Although the figures show that businesses continued to hire despite the protracted battle over tax and spending policies known as the so-called "fiscal cliff," economists argue that a boost of hiring is in the offing if lawmakers can resolve remaining fiscal issues.  

Lawmakers will have to raise the government's $16.4 trillion debt ceiling at some point within the next couple of months. Republicans are clamoring for, at least, an equal amount of spending cuts to the amount that the debt limit is raised. 

Economists and business groups argue that another fiscal fight could stall any economic momentum and, with it, job growth.