NEW YORK ( TheStreet -- The unemployment rate will likely fall below 8.0% by the end of 2010, according to TheStreet users.

In a weeklong poll conducted during the week of March 1, we asked readers of TheStreet to predict what where the unemployment rate would be by year's end, offering a range of options form which to choose. And readers of TheStreet were surprisingly optimistic. A full 22% of voters said they believed unemployment would fall below 8.0%, while another 21% predicted that the rate would drop to between 8.0% and 9.0%; in other words, 43% believe the unemployment rate will drop below 9.0% by year's end.

Another 23% of voters said unemployment would finish the year where it currently is -- between 9.0% and 10.0% -- while only 18% said it would finish between 10.0% and 11.0% and 16% said it close the year at more than 11.0%.

On Friday, the Labor Department said U.S. employers cut 36,000 jobs in February, which was less than expected. This leaves the unemployment rate unchanged at 9.7%.

Analysts expected non-farm payrolls to decline 50,000 during the months and the unemployment rate to inch up to 9.8%.

While the data was somewhat relieving, there's no getting around the fact that 8.5 million jobs have been lost since the start of the recession.

This week alone, several companies laid off employees. SuperValu ( SVU) said on Friday that it was cutting jobs at its Shaw's Supermarkets in Connecticut.

It is slashing 967 jobs as it closes stores in the state. The layoffs will take effect on April 13.

ConAgra Foods ( CAG) said it would eliminate 500 workers when it closes a North Carolina plant.

The Slim Jim plant was the site of an explosion last June that killed three people. The company is moving its production to Tryo, Ohio, where it will hire 200 additional employees.

Meanwhile, IBM ( IBM) also cut more than 2,500 jobs on March 1, according to documents submitted to a labor union representing some of IBM's employees.

The layoffs came from a number of divisions, but no specifics were revealed. IBM generally does not comment on its job cuts.

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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