The U.S. labor market improved in November, with the number of jobs lost in the private sector falling again and the number of planned layoffs also easing, separate reports showed on Wednesday.
The U.S. government is set to report on Friday data for both private and public employment, which is also expected to show the number of job losses falling, though unemployment is still seen above 10 percent.
U.S. private employers shed 169,000 jobs in November, fewer than the 195,000 jobs lost in October, according to a report on Wednesday by ADP Employer Services, jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.
The October fall was originally reported at 203,000.
The median of estimates from 30 economists surveyed by Reuters for was for decline of 155,000 private-sector jobs last month.
The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms shrank in November to the lowest level in nearly two years, suggesting corporate labor force cuts are tapering off even if actual hiring appears a distant prospect.
Employers announced 50,349 planned job cuts in November, which is the fewest number of monthly job cuts since 44,416 in December 2007, according to the report by global outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
Civilian jobs declined substantially in November although at their slowest rate in a year-and-a-half, said Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics in Danville, California.
Moreover, the decline was substantially less than the job losses that were experienced in March 2009, which were horrific. The magnitude of the job losses has progressively diminished over the past eight months. If this trend were to continue, the job losses would end sometime early next year, he said.
November planned job cuts were down 72 percent from last November's 181,671 job cuts, the highest monthly total of 2008, according to the Challenger report.
Since July 1, employers have announced an average of 69,252 job cuts per month. In contrast, the average monthly job-cut total from January through June was 149,446.
Most industries are seeing job cuts subside. Barring any unexpected shocks to the economy, we appear to be coming out of the woods when it comes to downsizing, said Challenger Chief Executive John Challenger.
There was little reaction to the data in U.S. stocks, bonds and currency markets late morning on Wednesday.
On Thursday the Obama administration is due to host a forum with business leaders to explore ways to boost employment, just a day before the Labor Department reports the monthly payrolls data, which is forecast to show the loss of another 130,000 jobs in November.
A drop in payrolls of another 130,000 would be the smallest decline since July last year and would also mark the 23rd straight monthly drop in payrolls.
The unemployment rate is forecast to be unchanged at a 26-1/2 year high of 10.2 percent.
In other data on Wednesday, U.S. mortgage applications nudged higher last week as interest rates fell, according to the U.S. Mortgage Bankers Association.
The MBA said interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, the most widely used loan, fell for a sixth straight week, remaining below the 5.0 percent level, widely viewed as a psychological tipping level.
Attractive rates coupled with high affordability have been positives for the U.S. housing market, which has been showing signs of stabilization. Sales surged in recent months as buyers scrambled to take advantage of the government's first-time home buyer tax credit.
Michael Moskowitz, president of Equity Now, a direct lender based in New York City and licensed in 11 states, said home loan demand at his company has jumped 20 percent over the past month, but also noted a lot of caution on behalf of consumers.
The MBA said borrowing costs on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, excluding fees, averaged 4.79 percent, down 0.03 percentage point from the previous week, the lowest since the week ended May 15.
The rate remained above the all-time low of 4.61 percent set in late March and well below the year-ago level of 5.47 percent.
Last month the Obama administration extended the $8,000 first-time buyer credit, added a $6,500 provision for some move-up buyers and increased income limits. The eligible borrowers must sign contracts by April 30 and close loans by June 30, 2010, instead of closing by the end of last month.
(Additional reporting by Ellen Freilich and Julie Haviv in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)