CNN Financial News Producer
The jobs picture is at least a little brighter today as two reports say the pace of job losses eased in December.
Payroll-processor ADP said private-sector employers cut 84,000 jobs last month, the fewest since March 2008. It was the ninth straight month that job losses narrowed from the previous month.
In a separate report, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said that 45,094 job cuts were announced in December, 10% less than November's 50,349 cuts. It was the lowest total since December 2007, when 44,416 cuts were announced.
All this comes ahead of Friday’s official employment report for December from the Labor Dept. Estimates there are all over the map, and experts are forecasting everything from a loss of 25,000 jobs, to our first job gains since December of 2007.
From job losses to billion-dollar government bailouts…
GMAC, the troubled finance company that just last week received its third government bailout, said Tuesday it expects to post a record fourth-quarter loss of $5 billion.
The company also said it has decided to try to sell its ResCap mortgage unit, which has lost billions of dollars since the housing market crashed. Those losses have strained the already stretched finances at GMAC, which is best known as a lender to the troubled U.S. auto industry.
GMAC got $7.5 billion from the government at the end of 2008 and $6 billion in the middle of last year as regulators sought to shore up the sagging auto financing market.
And we learned yesterday that the auto industry ended its worst year in memory with one of its best sales months of the year.
Overall industrywide sales soared 15% in December compared to a year ago, the biggest percentage gain since July 2005. Total sales topped the 1 million mark for only the second time this year, trailing only August. Sales spiked that month thanks to the federal government's “Cash for Clunkers” rebate program.
Most of the automakers posted better than expected results as five of the seven largest automakers reported increases of 18% or more from a year earlier.
But the boom in December wasn't enough to lift the industry out of its year-long slump. Full-year sales fell 21% from 2008 to 10.4 million, a 27-year low.
Finally, CNNMoney.com has a story that explains why your cable bill is going up this year… and next year… and the year after that - with no end in sight.
The average digital cable customer already pays almost $75 a month, according to research firm Centris, and many subscribers pay more than $100.
Cable customers see an average annual price hike of 5%, analysts say - which means that in five years they'll be shelling out more than $95 a month for TV.
Follow the money… on Twitter: @AndrewTorganCNN
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