Pace of Layoffs Slowed in March

By Roy Maurer April 2, 2015

U.S.-based employers planned 36,594 job cuts in March 2015, significantly less than the last two consecutive months of layoffs, which each surpassed 50,000, according to outplacement consultancy Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc.

The March job cuts were down 27.6 percent from February 2015 but 6.4 percent higher than the same month a year ago (34,399), making it the fourth consecutive year-over-year increase.

It was the lowest monthly total since December 2014, when 32,640 were announced.

“January, February are often heavier months, and so now as we start to move into the spring, summer, we’ll probably see the cuts draw back,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

1Q 2015 Job Cuts Dominated by Energy Sector

Employers announced 140,214 job cuts in the first quarter of 2015, up 15.6 percent from the 120,341 cuts tracked the first three months of 2014. A whopping 47,610 were directly attributed to falling oil prices, according to Challenger. “Without these oil-related cuts, we could have been looking at one of the lowest quarters for job-cutting since the mid-90s when three-month tallies totaled fewer than 100,000,” he said.

37,811 energy-sector jobs were lost in the first three months of 2015, a 3,900 percent increase from March 2014, when fewer than 1,000 energy job cuts were reported.

On the flip side, energy-sector job cuts have slowed significantly. Energy firms announced 1,279 job cuts in March, compared to the 16,000 announced in February.

Following energy jobs, the retail sector lost the second highest number of jobs so far this year, with 22,502 planned layoffs through the first three months of 2015. Target’s announced 6,640 layoffs in March accounted for a chunk of the retail-sector cuts.

While energy and retail topped the first-quarter job-cut tallies, the heaviest job cutting in March occurred among industrial goods manufacturers, whose payroll reductions totaled 9,383 during the month, bringing the sector’s 2015 total to 17,738, which ranks third among all industries.

“Oil prices impacted energy firms directly at the end of 2014 up until February. Now, peripheral manufacturers are losing contracts and laying off workers in an effort to limit major losses,” noted Challenger.

The financial and computer industries rounded out the top five areas with the most layoffs announced in March. Texas saw the most job cuts this year through March (47,043), followed by California (14,829), New York (11,394), Illinois (6,822) and Minnesota (6,060).

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy


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