A surge in private sector payroll data raised hopes of a pleasant surprise when the US Labor Department publishes its November job creation and unemployment numbers on Friday.
But with 13.9 million Americans still jobless more than two years after the end of the recession, even the most optimistic forecasts do not foresee a big enough hiring surge to substantially reduce the 9.0 percent unemployment rate.
On Wednesday payrolls firm ADP reported that businesses boosted hiring in the past month to their highest level in nearly a year, adding a net 206,000 jobs, much better than anticipated.
That was twice the average monthly gain since May, and coupled with an 18 percent upward revision of October's figure to 130,000, painted a picture of a jobs market significantly better than feared.
Small companies, those with less than 49 workers, contributed the lion's share of new jobs, mainly in services, but the gains were across the board, according to ADP.
The news added to the brio on Wall Street, where markets shot up more than four percent in the day driven by news that central banks would work together to ensure dollar liquidity to Europe's threatened commercial banks.
"If sustained, this would put the recovery on firmer ground and push the risk of another recession lower," said Ryan Sweet at Moody's Analytics of the ADP numbers.
But, with the jobless rate the focal issue in the US presidential election battle just revving up, other analysts cautioned that there was not enough evidence, even in the ADP report, and even in buoyant consumer spending figures, that the economy had caught fire.
Most analysts expect the Friday data will show that the economy generated a net 123,000 jobs in November: 141,000 from the private sector offset by a net 18,000 layoffs in the public sector.
That would still be better than October, when the economy created 80,000 jobs in October.
But it is barely enough to meet the constant increase in the working-age population, much less erode the overall jobless rate.
The Federal Reserve Wednesday had a less positive view of the jobs market in recent weeks.
In its Beige Book survey of regional economies, the central bank improved its outlook of economic growth -- growth in recent weeks was at a "slow to moderate pace", it said -- a slightly better description that in the mid-October report.
But, across the Fed's 12 regions, "hiring was generally subdued, although some firms with open positions reported difficulty finding qualified applicants," it said.
Ian Shepherdson at High Frequency Economics cautioned that a seasonal anomaly skews the November ADP data.
"This looks great but there is a catch: A seasonal adjustment quirk typically -- six of the past seven years -- generates November ADP readings well above the underlying trend," he said.
In 2010 and 2011, he said, the ADP jobs figure ran an average of 64,000 above the prior three-month average.
"So applying the same margin today suggests the 'real' November ADP number was 140,000."
"The danger now is that the big headline ramps up expectations for Friday and disappointment ensues," Shepherdson said.
High Frequency Economics is forecasting net November jobs growth of 125,000 on Friday.