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Unemployment claims fall in December

Unemployment numbers are improving as December data arrives, but public sector jobs at places like the USPS will continue to be cut this year.

Steve Chiotakis: Fewer people lined up for unemployment line -- and for unemployment benefits -- last week. The Labor Department said just moments ago that number fell to 372,000 -- low enough perhaps to drop the unemployment rate. Plus, Payroll company ADP says private employment jumped by 325,000 in December, nearly twice what economists were expecting. And job placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas said planned job cuts were down between November and December by 1.6 percent.

Let's get the latest now from the firm's CEO John Challenger, who joins us live this morning. Hey John.

John Challenger: Good morning, Steve.

Chiotakis: What do we make of today's report coming out of your office on planned layoffs?

Challenger: Very positive news. The layoffs have been very light throughout the fourth quarter. In fact, the December number is the lowest we've seen this year, since June. Companies are holding onto their people, and certainly private sector employers are adding new jobs at a fairly strong clip every month. It's just that the government is cutting jobs and is going to continue to do that into 2012.

Chiotakis: Besides your report, John, we got some other positive job indicators. Are we trying to turn a corner here?

Challenger: Let's hope so. We've been in a kind of a three steps forward, two steps back pattern since the recession ended two and a half years ago. Let's hope we're not just in another three steps forward phase, and we'll break out of that pattern and really start to see the unemployment rate drop in 2012.

But there are certanily clouds on the horizon there. This cutting of core jobs -- sailors, soldiers as they come back home, post office workers, government workers -- is really going to slow down consumer demand.

Chiotakis: John Challenger with Challenger, Gray and
Christmas. John, thanks.

Challenger: Thank you.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.
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