CHICAGO (CBS) — Ahead of a key government jobs report for February coming up Friday, a Chicago-based research firm says downsizing by employers eased last month.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas says planned layoffs by employers in February were down just over 3 percent from January.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

But that figure is still up 2 percent from February of last year, and overall, the pace of downsizing is up 18 percent for the year.

One encouraging sign is that layoffs in the hard-hit government sector leveled off, with recent job gains attributed to growing employment overall that has boosted payroll tax revenues.

But at the same time, chief executive officer John Challenger points to a worrisome new trend – serving job cuts among consumer products and transportation companies.

“What’s of concern is that it’s coming out of the private sector, not the government area, which has dominated the cuts over the last few years and especially last year,” Challenger said.

Consumer products firms led all others on job cuts last month, up 351 percent from a year ago.