U.S. planned job cuts dropped by 15 percent in January and below the 100,000 level for the first time since August 2004, though some sectors are likely to see rising jobs cuts in coming months, a report said on Tuesday.

Employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. (search) said employers announced 92,351 layoffs in January, down from 109,045 in December.

The January total planned job cuts were the lowest since August 2004, when planned cuts totaled 74,150. January also marked the largest hiring month since August 2004, with employers planning on hiring 29,832 people.

Employers in the telecoms sector announced 1,429 job cuts in January, and are expected to announce more in the coming months due several major mergers.

"Merger activity is starting to accelerate in many industries. On Monday alone there were at least three major deals announced, including the mega-merger between SBC (SBC) and AT&T (T), which is likely to result in significant job cuts," John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas said in a release.

Cuts the government/non-profit, financial services, and automotive industries comprised more than one-third of the planned January job cuts.

Challenger said employers in the health care, biotechnology, and manufacturing industries may soon jump on the job-cutting bandwagon.

On Friday, the government will report on the U.S. employment situation in January. Economists polled by Reuters forecast a 190,000 rise in non-farm payrolls January compared with a 157,000 rise in December.