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Job-seekers wait in line for assistance at a government-run employment center, in Las Vegas, Nevada. - 


BOB MOON: There's downright discouraging news on the labor front this morning. The job placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas reports the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms rose in the past month, to the highest level in almost a year.

CEO John Challenger is live on the line with details of his latest outlook. Good morning, sir. Your report blames mostly government lay-offs. Are we starting to see the downside of government budget cutting?

JOHN CHALLENGER: I think so, we're really in a recession from a hiring standpoint, employment standpoint. In government, they announced 16,380 job cuts in the month. And that's as 154 percent from January -- nearly 200 percent from a year ago.

MOON: Now we all know all too well that gas prices keep rising. is that bound to slow how many people that companies can hire?

CHALLENGER: It's going to be a big factor. Small businesses particularly are affected. They're nets affected as their cost for transporting goods, moving employees around, goes up. It's like a tax, not only to small business which contribute most of the hiring growth, but also to consumers which drive much of the U.S. economy.

MOON: Job placement consultant John Challenger thanks for bringing us up to date ahead of Friday's all-important jobs report.

CHALLENGER: Thank you.