The ADP jobs report estimates that 522,000 jobs were lost in the private sector in the first month of the year.
The report, which is an important pre-cursor to Friday’s official non-farm payroll job loss number, was slightly better than expected, but still reflects the pace with which redundancies are taking place.
The survey, compiled by payroll group ADP, also revised its previous December job loss number down from 693,000 to 659,000.
A separate report by recruitment consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas said that 241,749 planned lay-offs were announced in January, the largest monthly total since January 2002.
The data indicates that economist’s estimates for Friday’s non-farm payroll number – which includes private and public sector job losses – are likely to be fairly accurate, with a current consensus forecast of a loss of 535,000 jobs last month.
In addition, the unemployment rate is expected to jump to 7.5pc from 7.2pc in December.
"There can be few doubts that the disaster in the labor market continues, with firms of all sizes and in all sectors cutting jobs. Manufacturing is being hit hardest, with the pace of job losses trebling since September, but nowhere is safe," said Ian Shepherdson, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics.
That disaster was underlined on Wednesday when electronics giant Panasonic announced it is to cut 15,000 jobs from its global operations, equivalent to 3pc of its 300,000-strong workforce.
The company, which makes plasma televisions and other home appliances, said it expects to report a pre-tax loss of ¥380bn (£3bn), down from the previous forecast in November of a ¥100bn profit, after sales tumbled 20pc in the three months to December.
Half the cuts will be in Japan with the rest overseas. Its UK operations employ 2,050 staff at plants in Berkshire and Wales.
Panasonic follows hot on the heels of fellow electronic giants, NEC and Hitachi, which last week announced 27,000 job cuts as they brace themselves for huge annual losses.