Labor picture improving; end of recession near?

The surge in job cuts may be slowing, while bargain-hunting shoppers helped create a late season pop in retail sales, reports showed Thursday, adding to a mix of data bolstering hopes the end could be nigh for the 10-month-old recession.
The number of workers who filed new claims for state unemployment aid fell by 56,000 to a seasonally adjusted 395,000 for the week that ended Jan. 5, from 451,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department reported.