The number of U.S. job cuts rose to a new 16-month high in July, inflated by layoffs announced at three large national corporations, according to a new report by an outplacement consulting company.

There were 66,414 job cuts across the nation announced in July — up 60 percent from the June figure and a 59 percent year-over-year increase, according to numbers compiled by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., in Chicago.

Most of the reductions were reported from pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., bookseller Borders and tech developer Cisco Systems, which announced slashing 13,000, 10,700 and 6,500 jobs respectively.

The Merck and Borders announcements pushed the total pharmaceutical and retail industry job losses ahead of public-sector job cuts, which have dominated the industry list for the last seven months, according to Challenger.

The July announcement of job losses does not necessarily mean more unemployed individuals, because the slashed jobs have yet to be finalized. Borders planned to have all its stores closed by September, and Merck said it will complete its cuts by 2013.

On Long Island, jobs in the pharmaceutical and retail industries — as well as government positions — have taken a hit, but not with the severity of national levels, local economists said.

“The pharmaceutical industry has been restructuring itself,“ said Jim Brown, principal economist for the New York State Department of Labor. “Long Island is probably in a better position than most because they have a larger generic drug industry.“

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Pearl Kamer, the Long Island Association's chief economist, cited the recent June job loss numbers compiled by the state labor department, which reported government and manufacturing having the highest year-over-year reductions.

Decreased confidence among business owners and the slow growth of gross domestic product may have played a role in the jobs slashed, Kamer added.

“What we've seen in last couple of months is an uptick in layoffs,“ she said.

Separately, a payroll company said Wednesday U.S. private-sector employment increased by 114,000 jobs from June to July on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The numbers from Automatic Data Processing Inc., based in Roseland, N.J., matched the forecast of analysts and were below the level of growth that would be considered healthy.