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Planned layoffs up slightly in September: Challenger

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms in September rose 4.9 percent after hitting a 20-month low in August, a report on Thursday showed.

Employers announced planned job cuts of 33,816 last month, up from 32,239 in August, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Despite this relative increase, the latest data marks a 15-year low in planned job cuts announced for the month of September.

Last month's planned cuts were 71 percent lower than they were this time last year, when 115,730 expected job cuts were announced. Employers have announced 386,001 j o b cuts so far in 2012, down 19 percent from the 479,064 jobs cut during the first nine months of 2011.

"Layoffs are definitely at pre-recession levels. Unfortunately, hiring has not returned to those levels. A combination of factors, including the upcoming election, ongoing instability in Europe, growing signs of weakness in Asia and a host of other issues, are keeping companies from making any major expansion or hiring moves," John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement.

Cuts in the government sector fell significantly this year to 14,186 through September, compared to 119,027 at this point in 2011.

The hiring forecast was also positive, with 425,683 planned hires announced last month, of which 413,700 will be in the seasonal retail and food industry.

The Challenger report comes a day ahead of the key U.S. jobs report on Friday, which is forecast to add 113,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls in September - up from 96,000 jobs added in August. Private payrolls are forecast to add 130,000 jobs, Reuters poll data shows.

(Editing by Diane Craft)

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