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Pace of private sector job losses slows

People gather while awaiting the start of seminars for job seekers at an employment center in San Francisco, California November 20, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The pace of job losses in the private sector slowed in January as employers reported the smallest payroll decline in nearly two years while demand for home loans hit a six-week high last week, data showed on Wednesday.

A report by ADP Employer Services showed the United States lost 22,000 private sector jobs last month, smaller than the 61,000 jobs lost in December and economists’ forecasts for a 30,000 loss in January. December’s decline was first reported at 84,000.

January’s tally was the lowest since February of 2008, according to the ADP report, developed jointly with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.

“The trend continues to get less worse. This is consistent with job growth returning in the United States,” said Dave Sloan, senior economist at 4Cast Ltd in New York. “I do believe the U.S. economy is now strong enough to create jobs.”

The ADP data comes two days before the government releases its more comprehensive nonfarm payrolls report, which is expected to show the economy added 5,000 jobs in January after shedding 85,000 the prior month.

In a separate report, the Mortgage Bankers Association said its mortgage index jumped 21 percent last week to a six-week high as borrowers moved to lock in rates before an expected push higher this year.

The 30-year mortgage rate dipped 0.1 percentage point to 5.01 percent, though that was still 0.40 percentage points above the record low set in March.

Additional reporting by Burton Frierson, Richard Leong and Lynn Adler; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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