Thursday saw some unexpectedly hopeful employment data from both the U.S. government and private analysts, as the number of initial employment claims fell 14,000 for the week while payroll firm ADP reported the country added 176,000 jobs in June. The reports, coming ahead of Friday's official Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment report, represent a turnaround from a disappointing trend this spring, during which job growth slowed considerably and the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent.

Economists polled by Bloomberg had predicted growth of about 100,000 jobs after ADP reported 136,000 jobs added in May, and those asked by Reuters had called for 105,000 jobs added, so the 176,000 number represents a welcome surprise.

The declining number of first-time employment benefits applications supports ADP's estimate that the economy is adding more jobs. It's at a six-week low of 374,000, though the four-week moving average, seen as a more stable number, is still up at 385,750, "a decrease of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average of 387,250," the Department of Labor reports. Still, as the Associated Press likes to note in its reporting on this figure, "When applications consistently fall below 375,000 it generally suggests hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate." The Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report is due out Friday. Cross your fingers—especially if you're working for the Obama reelection campaign.