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US Firms Continue to Shed Jobs

A new report shows private companies in the United States cut an estimated 491,000 workers last month, indicating the U.S. labor market is still weak amid the worst recession in 50 years.

But the figure, released by ADP Employer Services Wednesday, is lower than economists had expected, giving some financial analysts hope the recession may be easing.

Another employment report released by a private consulting firm, Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Wednesday showed that U.S. companies planned 132,590 layoffs in April.

That is a 47 percent jump from April of last year, but the lowest monthly total in six months.

The economic crisis has shaken the stability of major U.S. banks, discouraging many from lending money to businesses and consumers.

On Thursday, the government will announce the results of its "stress tests" on the 19 largest banks.

Results will show whether the banks are strong enough to survive the financial crisis without taxpayer aid.

The government has already given billions of dollars to many banks. The stress tests may show some banks need additional help.

Industry officials say the Bank of America may need about $34 billion of capital to withstand the economic downturn.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.