MIAMI ( – The Great Recession may finally be starting to loosen its grip on the labor force in the United States.

According to a new report from Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, Inc. planned layoffs declined in December to the lowest rate since June 2011.

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The firm found that U.S. employers only announced 41,785 job cuts in December.

In addition, ADP Employer Services said companies added 325,000 jobs in the month of December, which was the highest in records dating back to 2001.

Plus, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims dropped below the key threshold of 375,000.

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The 375,000-threshold for initial claims is traditionally the mark that the claims must be below for the unemployment rate to drop.

Still, more jobs were cut in 2011 (606,082) than in 2010 (529,973). But those jobs cuts came primarily from the government sector which is being squeezed down to as small a size as possible.

In 2011, the government sector announced plans to eliminate 183,064 jobs in 2011, which was a 29 percent increase from 2010. Government jobs outpaced the highest private-sector job cuts by 188 percent, according to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas report.

“Unfortunately, these sectors are likely to continue to struggle in 2012,” John A. Challenger said. “Washington is under immense pressure to cut spending and it looks like every deal to extend tax cuts, raise the debt ceiling and pass the budget will come with measures to cut spending, which can be expected to result in more job cuts.”

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Florida led the Southern region of the country with announced job cuts in December with 2,302. But, Florida was second in the region for the year with 24,114 jobs lost, according to the CGC report.