WASHINGTON - There were 51,728 layoff intentions announced in February, down from 53,486 in January, but higher than the 50,702 job cuts announced in February 2011, job placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. said in a report released Thursday. The data are not seasonally adjusted.

Through the first two months of the year, there have been 105,214 announced job cuts in 2012, up from 89,221 cuts in the same period in 2011.

Layoffs in February were led by the transportation sector, which reported 14,065 job reductions in the month, followed by 13,856 layoffs in the consumer products sector.

These sectors, along with retail, have likely been impacted by rising fuel costs, both for their internal use and by reducing customers' budgets, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Meanwhile, the government sector, which led the layoffs counts through most of 2011, have slowed their layoff announcements in recent months.

Challenger said that the improvement in the government sector may be short-lived, as the Federal Government remains under pressure to cut costs even if state and local governments have little room for extra cuts.

In other data released, hiring intentions rose to 10,720 in February from 7,568 in January, but were down sharply from 72,581 in February 2011. February hiring plans were led by the industrial goods sector.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

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