According to Thomson Reuters, 185,000 jobs are expected to be created in January, well above the disappointing 74,000 reported for December.
"I think the market is expecting a decent (jobs) number, but they're worried with the weather, they will get a bad number. The question is not whether it's good or bad. The question is whether it's as bad as everyone thinks," said Gary Thayer, chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors.
Thayer said it was encouraging to hear Fed speakers Wednesday make positive comments about the economy and say that tapering the quantitative easing bond purchases should continue. Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, a hawkish voting member, said the Fed should wind down the bond-buying program even faster than expected and end it by mid-year.
Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, a non-voter, said he expects tapering to be completed in the fourth quarter. He said the economy is likely to be stronger this year than last year, and he does not expect the recent selloff in markets to impact the economy.
(Read more: Fed's Lockhart:Stocks in correction mode)
"I think this is interesting to hear the positive comments from some Fed officials, but at the same time investors are worrying that things aren't as good," he said. "It'll probably take about another month to sort out. We'll probably have choppy markets until then. There could be additional downside pressure, but if the economy looks as resilient as it should, that should be temporary."
While there is speculation the European Central Bank will take action Thursday, Brown Brothers strategists say they think odds are low it will cut its repo rate 10 to 25 basis points, or set a negative deposit rate.
"A cut in the lending rate would likely be more effective. We think the odds of a negative deposit rate are low at this juncture," wrote Marc Chandler, chief currency strategist at Brown Brothers. Chandler said he expects the ECB to sound dovish but not to make a move.
"First, we believe that ECB officials see the deflation in some peripheral countries as being largely desirable. The deflation has been dubbed "internal devaluation" which is the alternative to and exit from monetary union and external devaluation. It is (a) welcome sign that the competitiveness of such countries is being enhanced," he noted.
(Read more: Sell off is grim, but not as bearish)
Earnings are expected from General Motors ahead of the open. LinkedIn will get special attention in the afternoon, after Twitter's users numbers came in lower than expected. The list of companies reporting ahead of the opening bell include Kellogg, Aetna, Teva, NY Times, AOL, Philip Morris, Sanofi, AstraZeneca, Credit Suisse, Sony, Nobel Energy, Sealed Air, and Dunkin Brands. LinkedIn, Newscorp, Activision Blizzard, and Expedia report after the close.
—By CNBC's Patti Domm. Follow her on Twitter