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.