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Signs of creeping employment weakness were also flagged by another report on Thursday showing a 218 percent jump in announced job cuts by U.S.-based employers in January. The planned layoffs were concentrated in the energy and retail sectors.

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The rise in layoffs came amid a slowdown in economic growth. The economy grew at only a 0.7 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter, held back by the headwinds of a strong dollar and faltering global demand.

A downturn in capital spending by energy companies, reeling from a collapse in oil prices, and inventory destocking by businesses are also constraining growth. At the same time, a stock market rout sparked by fears of a global economic slump has caused financial market conditions to tighten.

Continue reading:  Rising U.S. layoffs hint at ebbing labor market momentum

Related story:  U.S. Economy Added 151,000 Jobs in January; Unemployment at 4.9%

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