First-time jobless applications hit five-year low

Even through the fiscal-cliff debate, the rate of hiring remained steady, a surprise to some economists who expected that businesses would pull back on adding employees. 

But the economy and the job market still face several legislative headwinds — scheduled spending cuts and completion of a budget for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year. 

Congress appears poised to shift the debt-limit debate over the raising of the nation's $16.4 trillion ceiling to this summer. The House passed a bill on Wednesday and the Senate is expected to take up the measure soon, possibly next week. 

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Jan. 12 were in Texas, where they were up by 12,786; California (+10,232); and Florida (+7,314).

The biggest improvements were seen in New York, which reported a drop of 27,487, while Georgia's claims fell by 7,520 and North Carolina's were down by 5,541.