All signs point to an October report showing lackluster jobs creation, despite a slight decline in the number of recent unemployment claims.

The Labor Department says weekly applications dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 397,000, the lowest level in five weeks. It's only the third time since April that applications have fallen below 400,000. Here in New Jersey, initial claims rose 11.2% in the most recent week after dropping by an even larger percentage in the prior week, a pattern that is typical for this time of the year.

And on Thursday, the Institute for Supply Management's service sector jobs index dipped a fraction, but remained essentially stable for October. The gains at firms that employ 90 percent of the work force suggest the economy is growing at a modest pace.

Most experts aren't expecting a hiring report any higher than 130-thousand created jobs in October. Economic analyst Patrick O'Keefe of J-H Cohn in Roseland says from month to month, the number of jobs we have added has been insufficient to keep up with our labor force growth, much less make inroads in the number of individuals who are actively looking for work.

Although unemployment claims increased slightly in New Jersey recently, continuing claims are near a three-year low, O'Keefe says the unemployment insurance data indicates the New Jersey jobs market has stabilized.