US Jan mass layoffs edge up on weak manufacturing

WASHINGTON, Feb 23 (Reuters) - The number of mass layoffs by U.S. employers edged up in January as manufacturers stepped up job cuts, data showed on Tuesday, but probably not enough to alter views that the economy is on the brink of creating jobs.

The Labor Department said the number of mass layoff actions -- defined as job cuts involving at least 50 people from a single employer -- increased by 35 to 1,761. Mass layoffs had trended lower since August.

A total of 182,261 workers were affected last month. In January, 486 mass layoff events were reported in manufacturing, resulting in 62,556 workers filing claims for state unemployment benefits. It was the first increase in mass layoffs in manufacturing since August.

The labor market is lagging the broader economic recovery that started in the second half of 2009. Since December 2007, when the worst recession in 70 years started, the U.S. economy has shed 8.4 million jobs.

Payrolls have declined every month since then except for last November when they increased by 64,000. Economists reckon the economy is a few months away from creating jobs.

Employers last month cut 20,000 jobs after laying off 150,000 workers in December, while the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent from 10 percent.

In the 26 months to January, a total 53,739 mass layoff events were effected and involved 5,425,101 workers, the Labor Department said. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by James Dalgleish)