Tomorrow morning, we'll get the final national unemployment reading of 2009, and the ugly economic decade that the month marked the end of. As usual, we'd like to give readers a chance to make a guess at what that number will be. December is a notoriously strange month for hiring and firing, so the number reported could be ultimately misleading in the grand scheme of unemployment trends for 2010. Still, it's bound to be the subject of much talk, analysis and debate. What will it be?

According to yesterday's ADP report, 84,000 jobs were lost in December, which was fewer than in November, but more than forecast. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean unemployment will rise. Even if jobs showed a net loss in November, there could be all sorts of other variables that take over to skew the national unemployment rate, like discouragement, seasonal retail hiring or workers simply exiting the workforce for the holidays.

Initial weekly jobless claims were also released today for the week ending January 2nd. The number of new jobless claims rose by just 1,000. That's fewer than the economists' forecast of 7,000. Of course, I'd suspect that the week between Christmas and New Year's probably has one of the traditionally lowest layoff rates of the year, so you probably want to take this number with a grain of salt in terms the optimism it portrays.

Last month, readers did particularly poorly in predicting the positive news of a decline in the national unemployment rate from 10.2% in October to 10.0% in November. Only 5% got it right. Meanwhile, around 72% of those who voted thought the unemployment rate would increase, instead of decrease. Obviously, this was one of those times when it felt good to be wrong, but I'll still hope for a better showing this month. Vote away!

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