U.S. job cuts dropped 13 percent from the same month a year ago. Yet, with still one month remaining in 2011, the 11-month total of 564,297 has already officially surpassed the 497,969 people employers let go in the past year.

Employers announced 42,474 layoffs in November, down 0.7 percent from 42,759 in October, according to the latest report on downsizing activity from outplacement consulting firm Challenger. November marks the second consecutive month of lower job cuts after surging to a 28-month high of 115,730 in September.

The government sector once again took the biggest hit this month. The sector lost 18,508 jobs, or 44 percent, of all jobs eliminated during the month. It is the eighth time this year that this sector led all others in monthly job cuts. For the year, government agencies have now announced 180,881 job cuts, 30 percent more than the 138,979 job cuts announced by these employers through November 2010.

Within the government sector, most of the job cuts announced came from departments of the U.S. Armed Forces. The U.S. Post Office is also rolling out massive workforce reductions.

According to Challenger, another sector still at risk for heavy downsizing activity is the financial services industry. Financial firms announced just 1,681 job cuts in November, bringing the year-to-date total for the sector to 56,191. That is up 162 percent from 21,430 financial cuts at this time a year ago, but still well below the recession high of 260,110, which was the year-end total in 2008.

Retail is the third on the list with the largest job-cutting, which has already lost 48,338 jobs so far this year.

"The end of the year is typically when we see much lower retail downsizing, since this is when these businesses are actually hiring in droves, as they bulk up their staffs for the holiday season," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "We could see increased hiring activity in late November and early December due to stronger-than-expected sales on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday."

The top three job-cut reasons cited by the report are cost-cutting, restructuring and closing.

The good news is: There are businesses that are hiring.

Lead by the transportation sector, the announced hiring plans in the past 11 months totaled 523,498, which have already surpassed the 2010 year-end total of 402,638 jobs created.