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November layoffs hit 14-month low at 30,953: Challenger

Layoffs by U.S.-based employers fell to a 14-month low in November, but total job cuts for 2015 were on track to hit a six-year high, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

November payroll reductions fell 39 percent from the previous month to 30,953, the lowest level since September 2014.

Still, the report brings year-to-date layoffs to 574,888, setting up 2015 to be the worst year for job cuts since 2009.

Employers typically make bigger cuts in the fourth quarter as they adjust staffing levels to meet earnings goals, said John Challenger, the firm's CEO.

"The November decline could be the quiet before a December storm or it could signal a lower-than-expected downsizing to close out the year," he said. "If recent history is any indication, it could be the latter, as December job cuts have been lower than the annual average since the end of the recession."

The Challenger report comes a day before the Labor Department's crucial November employment data, which is expected to show the creation of 195,000 jobs. On Wednesday, payroll processing firm ADP and Moody's Analytics reported that private companies added a better-than-expected 217,000 positions in November.

The employment situation is a key factor being weighed by the Federal Reserve in whether to raise interest rates for the first time in more than nine years. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday the central bank's decision on rates could still be swayed by data coming before its meeting on Dec. 15-16.

The Challenger data said industrial goods firms handed out the most pink slips last month. The sector, the fourth biggest job cutter for 2015, saw layoffs surge 109 percent from October to 7,398.

Meanwhile, reductions in the energy sector, the hardest hit industry in terms of layoffs this year, fell to a 5-month low of 1,355.

Challenger said the U.S. economy remains "fairly strong," noting that elevated layoff levels in 2015 are attributable to a few industries.

"In fact, of the 28 sectors we track, more than half have experienced a year-over-year decline in job cuts," he said.