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Outlook mixed ahead of jobs data

The guessing games have begun ahead of the federal government’s Friday release of job numbers for February. And the hunches and indications are decidedly mixed.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the Chicago outplacement firm that tracks announced job cuts, said today that February had the fewest announced job cuts since 2006. Employers announced plans to cut 42,090 jobs in February, 77 percent lower than the 186,350 cuts announced in February 2009, when the economy was in the midst of the housing and financial market meltdown, Challenger Gray said.

“Most economists agree that a recovery is well under way, a position that appears to be supported by declining job-cut activity,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive of Challenger Gray. “It may be a couple of more months before hiring begins to surge, but it is clear that employers have shifted away from downsizing and are poised to start adding workers.” 

Meanwhile, the latest gauge on the service sector -which accounts for 90 percent of the U.S. economy - shows that the industry expanded at its fastest pace since 2007 as orders increased, Bloomberg News reported.

The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index rose to 53 in February from 50.5 in January.

The institute’s service index includes industries such as retailing, utilities, health care, housing, transportation and finance and insurance. 

Still, the job market remains weak. A Bloomberg survey of economists predicts the government’s data will show 58,000 job lost in February, up from 20,000 in January, in part because of harsh winter weather that cut into sales. 

ADP, the payroll company predicts, that companies in the private sector alone cut 18,000 jobs.

 On Thursday, the New York State Labor Department will release jobs data for Long Island, which has been losing jobs for about 18 months. But the losses have been narrowing in recent months. 

A job fair line.  (Getty Images Photo)

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