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Monthly Job Losses Could Top 500,000 Again

With news of fresh layoffs creeping into the markets every day, investors are bracing for another bad nonfarm payrolls report Friday, which could bring the total job losses of the past two months to more than 1 million.

And the numbers are not likely to get better until the second half of the year, analysts said.

Nonfarm payrolls likely dropped by 525,000 in January, according to economists surveyed by ThomsonReuters. Those polled by Briefing.com predicted a drop of 540,000, on average.

And there are a number of predictions much higher. Analysts at ING, who still maintain their view that "we could at some point see 1 million payrolls decline," predict a plunge of 750,000 in January.

The unemployement rate is expected to rise to 7.5 percent from 7.2 percent in December. Average hourly earnings are expected to rise 0.2 percent.

The ADP employment report for the private sector indicated on Wednesday that 522,000 jobs were lost in January after a fall of 659,000 in December.

The impact of a recession, which is likely to be the worst since the Great Depression, is sweeping across a wide range of industries, outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas said in its monthly report on job cuts Wednesday.

Job cuts announced in January totaled 241,749, up 45 percent from December's 166,348, the report said, adding that record downsizing in the retail sector, with 53,968 layoffs planned, was the biggest area for job cuts and contributed to the overall rise in January's total.

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AP

"We're not hitting the bottom, that's for sure. Jobs lag the economy, I don't believe we're at the bottom for the economy," Marc Pado, an analyst from Cantor Fitzgerald told CNBC.

A stern warning from technology bellwether Cisco Wednesday, when the company said incoming orders declined dramatically in January, coupled with other bad earnings news, indicated that another "tough couple of quarters" were in store for the economy, Pado said.

"It's just starting," Robert Lloyd, from AIM Investments, said, adding that "huge" retail store and hotel closings may be ahead, putting addition pressure on unemployment.

Nonfarm payrolls can post declines of between 440,000 and 600,000 for some months, but the summer may bring different figures, Gabriel Stein, director at Lombard Street Research, told "Worldwide Exchange."

"Given that the US economy is probably bottoming in the current quarter, you will continue to have bad payrolls numbers in the second quarter," Stein said. "Come mid-year, you may see the numbers start to improve."

What the US needs is a fundamental change to the "innovation economy" promoted in the 1990s, according to some analysts.

"We need to get back to encouraging people to get out and build businesses," Lloyd said.

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