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Economy

Layoffs Slow And Weekly Jobless Claims Dip

The last two bits of economic news before Friday's much-anticipated jobs report are both at least modestly positive:

— There were 323,000 first-time claims filed for jobless benefits last week, down 26,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration says. Claims touched a three-month low.

— There were fewer layoffs announced last month than in February, according to the outplacement consultants at Challenger, Gray & Christmas. They say U.S.-based employers said in February that they anticipate eliminating 41,835 jobs in coming months. That was down from the 45,107 job cuts they announced in January.

Even as companies plan layoffs in one or more parts of their operations, they often plan to add staff in other areas. Also, 42,000 or so layoffs are a relatively small number in an economy that has more than 145 million people working.

We point out those realities because on Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to report that, overall, there were about 146,000 more jobs on public and private employers' payrolls in February than there were the month before. That would be slighter better growth than the 113,000 jobs added in January.

Economists also expect to hear Friday that the nation's jobless rate stayed at 6.6 percent last month.

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