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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms plunged by 32 percent in December to the lowest monthly total in more than 13 years, a report on Thursday showed.
Employers announced 30,623 layoffs last month, down from 45,314 in November, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
The last time employers announced fewer job cuts was June of 2000, when 17,241 planned layoffs were recorded.
The figures come a day ahead of the closely-watched U.S. non-farm payrolls report, which is forecast to show the economy added 196,000 jobs in December
On Wednesday, payrolls processor ADP reported private employers added 238,000 jobs last month. That was well above market forecasts and has fed speculation of stronger overall U.S. growth in 2014.
For all of 2013, employers announced 509,051 cuts, down 3 percent from the 523,362 seen in 2012 and the lowest yearly total since 1997, the Challenger data showed.
"The recovery has been slow, but every year since the recession has been better than the previous one," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The December figure fell 6 percent from a year earlier, when planned layoffs totaled 32,556, and marked the third straight month that announced workforce reductions dropped year over year.
The computer sector was the most active for planned cuts in December, with 5,578, followed by industrial goods with 2,470 cuts and retail with 2,269.
For the year, the financial sector was hit hardest, with 60,962 job cuts, up 49 percent from 41,008 in 2012. Likewise, New York-based firms cut the most jobs - 82,952 - last year. California firms were second with 59,535 cuts.
The health care sector announced 52,637 job cuts in 2013, up 45 percent over 2012's total of 36,212.
Reporting By Steven C. Johnson; Editing by Chris Reese