WASHINGTON — Employers are laying off fewer workers, a trend that normally suggests hiring is picking up. The January jobs report next week will show whether employers have begun to hire more freely or are still waiting for the economy to strengthen.
The number of people seeking unemployment aid has reached a five-year low. Some employers, such as health care companies, restaurants, and retailers, are hiring steadily. Yet overall job growth remains modest. And the unemployment rate is the same painful 7.8 percent it was when Barack Obama became president four years ago.