CHICAGO (CBS) — Ahead of a key government jobs report to be issued Friday, a Chicago firm said layoffs are picking up in the U.S.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, for a second straight month, Challenger Gray & Christmas reports planned job cuts rose in February.

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“February showed a 37 percent increase in the number of announced layoffs from January. It went from 40,430 to 55,356,” said Challenger executive vice president Rick Cobb.

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The bulk of those – 19,000 cuts over the next two years by JP Morgan Chase – actually are the result of a strengthening housing market.

“That number is represented primarily by the mortgage unit, which has been inflated to deal with the number of troubled mortgages over the past few years,” Cobb said.

CEO John Challenger said last month’s 55,000 lost jobs don’t yet fully reflect layoffs tied to the federal sequestration budget cuts.

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He said 3,000 cuts planned by United Technologies could be just the tip of the iceberg, foreshadowing a surge in layoffs linked to across-the-board federal spending cuts that began taking effect last week.