CHICAGO (CBS) — There is new evidence that the job market strengthened last year.

A Chicago research firm reports that job cutting in 2012 plunged to its lowest level in 15 years.

Outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas says that last month, planned job cuts by employers dropped to just over 32,500, the second lowest of the year.

And for all of 2012, the number of job cuts was the lowest since 1997.

CEO John Challenger says the pace of downsizing last year was the slowest since the end of the recession and in fact, the lowest since before the dot-com collapse and the subsequent 2001 recession.

Among sectors, the computer industry led the job cuts last year with the transportation sector not far behind.