They are, according to Chicago-based consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. The firm reports that U.S. employers disclosed plans to lay off 186,350 people during the month of February. Sure, that's a pretty grim number, but not so grim as January's total. In fact, that's a 23 percent decline from a seven-year high of 241,749 job cuts in January 2009. "The decline in job cuts last month offers some hope that January was the peak, and we will now see layoffs begin to fall or at least stabilize," firm chief executive John A. Challenger said in a statement.