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Announced U.S. Job Cuts Fall 8.8% From Year Ago, Challenger Says

Employers in the U.S. announced fewer job cuts in March than a year earlier, another sign of healing in the labor market.

Planned firings fell by 8.8 percent from March 2011 to a 10-month low of 37,880, according to figures released today by Chicago-based job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Job cuts at government and nonprofit agencies were down 86 percent last quarter compared with the same period in 2011, the report showed.

Dismissals are waning as employers become more optimistic about the economic outlook. At the same time, rising gasoline prices pose a risk to consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy.

“Both consumer products and transportation saw fewer job cuts in March after experiencing heavy cuts in February,” John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement. “These are key indicators of the economy’s health.”

Compared with February, announcements fell 27 percent. Because the figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal effects, economists prefer to focus on year-over-year changes rather than monthly numbers.

Telecommunications firms led all industries with 4,089 announced job cuts in March, with almost half coming from T-Mobile USA Inc., followed by 3,733 dismissals in education.

Cuts in California

California led all states with 3,904 announced job cuts. North Carolina followed with 3,717 reductions, while Washington state had 3,208 firings.

Employers announced plans to take on 12,390 workers, up from 10,720 the prior month, the report said.

The Labor Department tomorrow may report payrolls climbed by 205,000 workers in March following a 227,000 increase in February, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The unemployment rate probably held at 8.3 percent.

Challenger’s data do not always correlate with figures on payrolls or first-time jobless claims as reported by the government. Many job cuts are carried out through attrition or early retirement. Some employees whose jobs are eliminated find work elsewhere in their companies, and many announced staff reductions never take place because business improves. The totals also include foreign affiliates.

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