Planned job cuts in the U.S. eased in October but remained above the 100,000 level for the second month in row, a report said Tuesday.

Employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. (search) said employers announced 101,840 layoffs in October, down from 107,863 in September. The October figure marked the first time since January/February of 2003 that more than 100,000 cuts were announced back to back.

The October cuts were 40.7 percent lower than the 171,874 cuts announced in October, 2003.

The October figure brings job cuts in the first 10 months of 2004 to 826,160, which is 21 percent fewer than the same 10-month total in 2003 of 1,043,954.

If employers announce more than 86,920 job cuts in each of the last two months of 2004, it will be the fourth consecutive year in which job cuts exceeded 1,000,000, the consulting firm said. Prior to 2001, the highest annual job-cut total was 677,795 in 1998.

"The job market appears to be stuck in the mud," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of the firm. "Every time it looks as if things are going to rebound for the nation's workers a series of reports deflates the optimism."

Job losses in October were particularly heavy in the telecommunications sector which announced 16,664 cuts in October, the largest number of cuts in the industry this year and the third consecutive month the telecommunications has seen an increase in job cuts.

On Friday, the Labor Department (search) will report on the U.S. employment situation in October. Economists polled by Reuters forecast a 169,000 rise in non-farm payrolls for the month compared with a 96,000 rise in September.