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January 5, 2011 9:00 AM, EST

Employers Cut Fewest Number of Jobs Since 1997

U.S. employers announced the fewest job cuts last year since 1997 as the economy continued to recover, according to a private survey released Wednesday, Bloomberg reported.

Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas said December firings dropped 29% from the same month a year earlier. There were 529,973 planned firings last year, down 59% from 2009 when job cuts were at a seven-year high, the report said.

Compared with November, job cut announcements fell 34%, while employers planned to hire 10,575 workers in December, down from 26,012 in November and 35,592 a year earlier, Bloomberg reported, citing the study.

Companies last year announced plans to hire 403,038 workers, led by automotive and retail with 4,475 and 2,000 additions, respectively. Employers announced 32,004 job cuts last month, the fewest since June 2000, the report said.

The U.S. Labor Department will release its monthly unemployment report Friday morning in Washington.