U.S. planned job cuts (search) soared to an eight-month high in September while new hiring rose only slightly, a report said on Tuesday.

Employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. (search) said employers announced 107,863 layoffs in September, 41 percent more than in September 2003 and 45 percent more than in August of this year, when 74,150 were laid off.

The September figure was the largest since January 2004, when employers laid off 117,556 workers.

The September figure brings third-quarter job cuts to 251,585, 19.9 percent more than the 209,895 registered in the previous quarter and 4 percent more than the 241,548 for the third quarter of 2003.

Job losses in September were particularly heavy in the computer, transportation, telecommunications and consumer products industries, the report said.

Adding to the glum jobs picture was the slow pace of new hiring in September. The report said employer hiring announcements revealed only 16,166 new job openings in that month compared with 132,105 in August.

"Historically, the period from September 1 through December 31 is when we see the heaviest downsizing and this year appears to be on track to repeat that trend," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of the firm.

"This period can also be a time for hiring since companies are looking ahead to the new year and making budget and staffing decisions. Weak hiring announcements last month are not a good indication of stronger job creation to come," he said.

One Friday, the government will report on the U.S. employment situation in September. It will be the last official report before the presidential elections. Economists polled by Reuters forecast a 148,000 rise in non-farm payrolls for September compared with a 144,000 rise in August.