U.S. employers announced plans to cut 76,456 jobs in August, the second-lowest level of the year, according to the latest tally by Chicago-based research firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The August total was the sixth time in the past seven months that job cuts declined from the previous month. August was 21 percent lower than July, when 97,373 layoffs were announced.
August was also the third month in a row that job cuts were lower than the same month last year.
The Challenger report comes ahead of the Labor Department's monthly data on the U.S. jobs market, to be released Friday. And it gives another sign that the worst of the recession's impact on employment may be easing.
Still, the situation for workers and job seekers could get worse during the final four months of the year. That's typically the time when companies cut the most, to improve their balance sheets at year-end, said John Challenger, CEO of the research firm.
"If monthly job-cut levels remain near 100,000 or lower, it will be a strong indication that the economy and job market are improving," he said, in a prepared statement. "That does not necessarily mean that there will be a sudden surge in job creation as 2010 gets underway, but we will at least be heading in the right direction."