Get started: Entrepreneurs looking overseas earlier, unemployment claims dropping steadily

What’s going on:

Unemployment claims dropping steadily: The number of unemployment benefit applications filed over the past month fell to its lowest level since early 2008, suggesting the job market is improving.

Fiscal cliff plunge looks likely: The fiscal cliff is less three days away, and President Obama is making last-minute calls to try to strike a bargain. Already, government workers are feeling the squeeze.

Entrepreneurs looking overseas earlier: More early-stage firms are starting to market and sell abroad right from the outset, abandoning conventional wisdom to build a customer base at home first.

Sales soaring for small farmers, manufacturers: Grain farmers and metal workers are looking up, while drycleaners and golf courses expect another tough year. Here are the fastest and slowest growing industries.

Keep an eye on:

Hurdles looming in 2013:Rising health costs and a skilled worker shortage may pose challenges for small firms next year, and it won’t help that accelerators are not expected to accelerate. Of course, business owners are just hoping that Washington doesn’t make matters worse.

Helpful advice on:

How to avoid a year-end financing hangover (OSB)

How to check the health of your business (Bloomberg)

How to make the most of holiday downtime (Entrepreneur)

How to find capital when bank loans aren’t available (Forbes)

J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he runs the On Small Business blog.

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