updated 5/3/2005 12:32:12 PM ET 2005-05-03T16:32:12

U.S. firms planned the lowest number of job cuts since November 2000 indicating recovery in the the labor market.

Major Market Indices

Employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said employers announced 57,871 job cuts last month, down from 86,396 in March, and 20 percent lower than April 2004.

“The lowest job-cut figure since 2000 is certainly great news for an economy that has been struggling for over two years to produce definitive signs of a strong turnaround,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a report.

More positive job market signs were seen in the monthly hiring data, which showed a 21 percent increase in April to 22,452, up from 18,509 in March, the report said.

The data comes a few days before the government releases its non-farm payroll data for March, which according to economists polled by Reuters, is expected to be 170,000.

“While some economic reports have been tepid, there is no denying that the job market is improving,” Challenger said.

“The number of jobs on the nation’s payrolls has grown in each of the past 22 months, according to the government’s survey of employers,” he said.

Despite the improving job market, several concerns remain, the report said. Consumer spending could decline due to continued high energy prices, which would hurt companies’ profit margins and lead them to defer hiring decisions.

High fuel prices also were to blame for job cuts in the transportation sector, the report said.

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