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Job cuts surge 61% - Challenger

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Job cuts accelerated in March, driven by planned reductions on government payrolls, a report released Thursday showed.

Employers announced plans to cut 67,611 jobs in March, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. That's up 61% from February, when 42,090 jobs were lost, the lowest level in nearly four years.

"Unfortunately, many people are still jobless and many businesses still shuttered," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of the firm, in a statement. "This combination is having a significant negative impact on state and local tax revenues and, in turn, leading to continued downsizing in this sector."

Government job cuts led March's surge, accounting for nearly 75% of the total jobs shed. Year to date, government job losses have made up about a third of all announced cuts.

There were 50,604 announced government job cuts in March, and the United States Postal Service alone plans to reduce its workforce by 30,000 workers this year through retirement and attrition. The rest of the government jobs will be shed by state and local agencies suffering from budget shortfalls.

But overall the trend was still positive. March job cuts were down 55% from the same month a year ago, when 150,411 cuts were announced.

In the first quarter of 2010, a total of 181,183 job cuts were announced, the lowest first quarter total since 2000 and down 69% from the first quarter of 2009.

A separate report Wednesday from payroll processor ADP showed that private-sector employers cut payrolls by 23,000 jobs in March, marking the smallest monthly decline since February 2008. ADP's report does not include government jobs.

The report sets the stage for the highly anticipated monthly jobs report from the government due Friday. The Labor Department is expected to show a gain of 190,000 jobs in March, compared to the 36,000 lost in February. Economists forecast the unemployment rate will remain unchanged at 9.7%. To top of page

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