So much for those "improving" unemployment numbers.  Last quarter, the Obama administration trumpeted the statistical fact that jobless claims had leveled off and actually dropped - even as analysts pointed out that this was due to the holiday/seasonal hiring season.

Guess what?  Now that the holidays are done, jobless claims have jumped back up.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that seasonally-adjusted initial claims for first-time jobless benefits rose 24,000 to 399,000. It was the highest in six weeks and suggested the labor market remained spotty despite signs of recent growth. The four-week moving average, considered a better indicator of labor market trends because it smooths wrinkles in the data, rose 7,750 to 381,750 from a revised 374,000 the prior week.

And with 2012 as an electi0n year, you can be sure that all eyes will be on the economy and jobless numbers.

"The jobless claims are certainly not going in the right direction. You have people that have been encouraged that the economy is headed in the right direction so this is not what you want to see," Joe Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading said. "Retail numbers aren't so great either."