Employers Planned Fewer Layoffs in February

The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms dipped in February, with the transportation and consumer products sectors seeing the most job cuts, a report on Thursday showed.

Employers announced 51,728 job cuts last month, down 3.3 percent from 53,486 in January, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Still, February's job cuts were up 2 percent from the same time a year ago when 50,702 cuts were announced. For the first two months of 2012 there have been 105,214 layoffs, about an 18-percent jump from 89,221 at the start of last year.

Transportation and consumer product companies announced the most cuts last month with 14,065 and 13,856 layoffs, respectively.

"Both sectors are undoubtedly feeling the impact of rising fuel prices as heavy users of fuel, but also from their dependency on consumers, who are being forced to spend more on gasoline and less on the products and services provided by these firms," John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement.

However, far fewer jobs have been cut in the government sector this year, with layoffs sliding to 3,654 for January and February from 22,830 the same time last year.

Meanwhile, planned hiring announcements jumped 42 percent to 10,720 in February from 7,568 in January. But that level dropped off 85.2 percent from 72,581 in February 2011.