A broadly based increase in payrolls across 34 U.S. states in January preceded a sharp increase in hiring reported for last month, according to the Labor Department. Overall, "the pace of layoffs seems to have abated somewhat from where it was six months ago" while hiring is "starting to get a little bit of improvement," observed Pierpont Securities economist Stephen Stanley. The figures indicate that consumer spending, which has held up despite tax increases at the beginning of the year, is more likely to be sustained.

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