A job fair sign is viewed at a Job Fair at the Suffolk County One Stop Employment Center on September 8, 2011 in Hauppauge, New York. - 

The payroll processing company ADP reported this morning that 215,000 private sector jobs were created in the U.S. last month, outperforming analyst expectations.

It's a positive sign ahead of tomorrow's December jobs report from the Labor Department. Also out this morning is a report from the job placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. It shows that last year saw the fewest job cuts since 1997.

"It's been a more healthy job year than many people think," says the firm's CEO John Challenger. He adds that, with baby boomers retiring, 150,000 new jobs a month -- as seen in 2012 -- may be enough to satisfy the workforce.

Though the overall picture may be promising,  Challenger notes the past year was uneven.

"We saw some monthly spikes in job cuts throughout the year -- there were some significant mass layoffs," says Challenger.

To hear how Challenger thinks the ongoing fiscal and budgetary talks in Washington are likely to affect the labor market, click on the audio player above.

Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson