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The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell in December to the lowest level since 2000, while the combined yearly total was the lowest since 2007, a report said today.
Employers announced 32,004 planned job cuts last month, down 34 percent from November, and down 29 percent from a year ago, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
It was the lowest monthly total since June 2000, when employers cut 17,241 jobs.
Downsizing in 2010 totaled 529,973 lost positions, a 59 percent drop from the previous year. The 2010 total was the lowest since 434,350 job cuts were announced in 1997.
"The downsizing phase of the recession really came to an end in 2009. Job cutting fell dramatically in the second half of that year," John Challenger, Chief Executive Officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement. "The pace of downsizing continued to slow in 2010 to levels we have not seen since before the 2001 recession."
The report of relatively stable job cuts comes two days ahead of the much-anticipated U.S. December jobs report, which is forecast to show a sharp rise in payrolls.
Fewer jobs were eliminated in nearly every major industry in 2010, the Challenger report said. Layoffs in the automotive sector totaled 16,001, down 91 percent from a year ago. Retail employers -- which cut 98,807 jobs a year ago -- announced 38,751 layoffs in 2010, a decrease of nearly two-thirds.
Government and non-profit employers, the year's largest job-cutting sector, showed a 17 percent drop in layoffs from a year ago, the report said. Still, Challenger said he expects the sector to experience painful cuts in 2011 due to budget shortfalls.
"The sector could see an increase in job cuts in 2011 as state and local agencies, which saw the heaviest downsizing last year, are joined by federal agencies under increasing pressure from a Congress determined to cut spending," he said.
Those polled by Reuters predicted combined private and public payrolls likely to rise by 140,000 jobs in December compared with November's addition of 39,000 jobs.