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Job picture: Signs of improvement

ADP report shows job losses ease. Challenger data say number of cuts slowed to the lowest level in nearly 2 years.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The pace of U.S. job losses slowed in November, according to two reports released Wednesday.

Automatic Data Processing (ADP, Fortune 500), a payroll-processing firm, said private-sector employers cut 169,000 jobs in November.

It was the eighth month in a row that the number of job cuts fell from the month before. The number of cuts in October was revised down to 195,000 from the previously reported 203,000.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a loss of 150,000 jobs last month.

"Looking forward, we expect several months of declines," said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, in a conference call. "But the losses will get smaller and we should see the first positive number in February's data."

The U.S. economy will not return to "full employment," defined as 5% unemployment, until as late as 2014, Prakken said.

Prakken also addressed the jobs forum slated for Thursday, in which President Obama will meet with labor representatives, financial experts and other business leaders to discuss the continued problems with unemployment.

"There are two ways you can go: hope more government spending translates to employment, or give tax incentives for hiring," Prakken said.

Both options are tricky, Prakken said, and "he's not a huge fan" of either avenue because to improve the labor market most of the hiring will have to be in the private sector.

"Sadly, I don't think much can be done to keep unemployment from peaking at 10.4% or 10.5%," Prakken said.

Challenger report. A separate report showed the pace of job losses has slowed to the lowest level in two years, but the number of cuts announced in 2009 have already exceeded last year's total.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. reported that 50,349 jobs were cut in November, 9.6% less than in October. It was the lowest total since December 2007, when 44,416 layoffs were announced.

November's job cuts marked the fourth consecutive month of declines in what has been the worst year in terms of job losses in the last 60 years.

The government/non-profit and automotive sectors were hit the hardest this year, with 330,510 announced job cuts. One in every four job cuts came from those two sectors alone, Challenger said.

Altogether, employers have announced 1,242,936 job cuts so far this year -- 17.5 % more than at this point a year ago. The current tally exceeds the total number of job cuts in all of 2008, which was 1,223,993.

Although the labor market appears to be coming out of the woods when it comes to downsizing, a possible jobs recovery depends on what happens with hiring, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"Most industries are seeing job cuts subside," Challenger said in a statement, "unfortunately, the second half of the job-market equation -- hiring -- has not shown any signs of an imminent rebound."

Meanwhile, in another sign of continued weakness, the nation's unemployment rate rose above 10% for the first time since 1983 in October.

The Challenger report sets the stage for the highly anticipated monthly jobs report from the government due Friday. The Labor Department report is expected to show that the economy shed 120,000 jobs in November, less than the 190,000 reported for October, according to a consensus estimate of economists compiled by Briefing.com. The unemployment rate is predicted to hold steady at 10.2%. To top of page

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