Fewer Planned Layoffs Occurred in April

The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell in April to the lowest monthly amount for the year so far and were outpaced by a rise in plans to hire, a report on Wednesday showed.

Employers announced 36,490 planned job cuts last month, down 12 percent from 41,528 in March, according to a report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

It was the lowest monthly total of the year and the third lowest over the past 16 months. Job cuts were down nearly 5 percent from year-ago planned layoffs of 38,326. Since January, employers have announced 167,239 job cuts.

Meanwhile, companies have announced plans to add 172,590 workers since the beginning of the year, with April bolstered by McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) bid to hire 50,000 workers in one day. Hiring plans totaled 59,648 in April.

"The slow pace of downsizing suggests employers remain optimistic about business conditions going forward, despite higher energy costs, government deficits and slipping confidence among consumers," John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement.

The government sector remained weak, with 10,731 cuts announced in April. Though the pace of cuts has slowed from a year ago, the report noted the impact of federal cost cutting has not yet been seen.

The release comes ahead of the much-anticipated U.S. jobs report on Friday, which is forecast to show payroll growth slowed in April.

Those polled by Reuters predicted the economy added 186,000 jobs last month, down from a gain of 216,000 in March. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 8.8 percent.