Meanwhile, private sector created 215,000 new jobs in December, according to the ADP, bowing past expectations for 133,000. In November, 118,000 private sector jobs were created.
And planned layoffs at U.S. firms declined for the first time in four months in December, with employers announcing 32,556 job cuts last month, according to a report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The trio of data come a day ahead of the widely-watched government nonfarm payroll report, which is forecast to show 150,000 new U.S. jobs were added in December, according to a Reuters poll, up slightly from 146,000 new jobs in November.
The Federal Reserve is expected to release the minutes of its December 11-12 policy-setting meeting at 2 pm ET. In December, the Fed met market expectations with another round of easing, this time with a pledge to hold interest rates low until unemployment falls below 6.5 percent and inflation tops 2.5 percent.
Stocks kicked off the first trading day of 2013 with a sharp bang Wednesday after a deal to stave off the U.S.' "fiscal cliff," with the Dow closing up 2.4 percent, Nasdaq up 3 percent and the S&P 500 up 2.5 percent.
On Thursday, however, the optimism made way for uncertainty as the mood in Washington remained pessimistic.
The Senate-backed bill voted on by the House of Representatives has only prevented automatic spending cuts by two months and there are fears that the politicians will fail to reach a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling of $16.4 trillion in late February.
The fiscal deal did not include an agreement over increasing the debt ceiling and investors expect renewed brinksmanship with Republicans, who are likely to demand cuts to social welfare programs in return for raising the limit on government borrowing.
A spokesman from the International Monetary Fund said in a statement that "more remains to be done" and business leaders have been critical of the efficacy of the congressional deal.
"I think this deal's a disaster," said Peter Huntsman, chief executive of chemical producer Huntsman Corp. "We're just living in a fantasy land. We're borrowing more and more money. This did absolutely nothing to address the fundamental issue of the debt cliff."
Retailers posted mixed monthly same-store sales results as the economy caused consumers to remain cautious during the crucial holiday shopping period.
Biogen Idec slumped after its experimental ALS drug failed to meet its primary endpoint in a trial, and the company plans to discontinue development.
Among earnings, Family Dollar Stores tumbled after the retailer reported lower-than-expected earnings and cut its forecast for the year.
Weekly mortgage applications fell last week for the third-straight time as refinancings dropped to the lowest level since April, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.