The numbers are in and layoffs in financial services are down significantly

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Things may be looking up on the job cuts front. Even though hiring hasn't picked up yet, downsizing in the financial services sector last month was half what it was in 2011, according to global outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

In September, 2011 there were 54,013 layoffs, while last month, only 27,732 jobs cuts were announced.

This initial comparison may be misleading given that that Bank of America’s announcement of 30,000 job cuts was recorded last September. “That announcement made up about half of all job cuts in the financial service sector last year,” said a Challenger representative.

Still, the number of planned job cuts in finance for the month of September 2012, according to Challenger Gray, is lower than other major industries topping the list of job cutters for the month, including technology, transportation, retail, and education.

And, interestingly enough, last month’s total for all industries was 71 percent lower than a year ago, when planned job cuts unexpectedly surged to a 29-month high of 115,730. In fact, last month was the lowest September total since 1997 when only 20,698 were announced.

The Challenger report comes a day ahead of the key U.S. jobs report due out tomorrow, which is forecast to add 113,000 jobs to non-farm payrolls in September - up from 96,000 jobs added in August.

Private payrolls are forecast to add 130,000 jobs, Reuters poll data shows.

“Layoffs are definitely at pre-recession levels,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray.

“Unfortunately, hiring has not returned to those levels," he added.  "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.”

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