Planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell for a third consecutive month in
April, hitting their lowest since last October and providing yet
another sign that the world's largest economy may be bottoming out.

Planned job cuts announced by U.S. employers totaled 132,590 in
April, a 12-percent drop from the 150,411 layoffs recorded the previous
month, according to a report released on Wednesday by global
outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

This was the lowest monthly total since 112,884 cuts were announced
last October, but still up 47 percent from the 90,015 job cuts
announced in the same month of 2008.

Job cuts are still at recession levels, but the fact that they are
falling is certainly promising and may suggest that employers are
starting to feel a little more confident about future business
conditions, said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of
Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The latest figures illustrate the wide path of economic destruction
caused by the current recession, which is on track to be the longest
since World War Two.

The slump that started in the housing and financial sectors has
spread rapidly and is now wreaking havoc on the automotive sector,
which accounted for one of every seven job cuts this year and continued
to see heavy downsizing in April.

The auto industry announced another 24,172 job cuts during the
month, bringing its four-month total to 101,036. Ailing U.S. auto
manufacturer Chrysler filed for bankruptcy on April 30.

Autos, however, were not the worst-hit U.S. sector in April as the
government/non-profit sector led with 27,624 job losses for the month,
followed by the automotive sector's 24,172 and 18,636 in the industrial
goods sector.

The jobs misery in the government sector comes despite Washington's
efforts to bolster employment there with billions of dollars worth of
economic stimulus.

State and local governments, as well as school districts, are
really feeling the impact of this downturn. They are losing revenue
from property taxes as foreclosure rates increase as well as from
declining sales and income taxes, Challenger said.

The Challenger report comes ahead of Wednesday's ADP Employer
Services report on private sector employment and Friday's comprehensive
non-farm payrolls report by the government.

Economists expect Friday's payrolls report to show the economy shed
620,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate jumped to 8.9 percent
from 8.5 percent.