Layoffs Up Month-over-Month, but Trending Lower Overall

Retail leads all sectors in announced job cuts for 2017

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer April 13, 2017
Layoffs Up Month-over-Month, but Trending Lower Overall

U.S. employers announced 43,310 layoffs in March, a 17 percent increase from the previous month but part of an overall downward trend, according to the latest report on monthly job cuts released by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The figure was 2 percent lower than the 44,207 jobs marked for elimination in March 2016. This is the third consecutive month of fewer job cuts than the corresponding month a year earlier.

Employers have announced 126,201 job cuts so far this year, a total 30 percent lower than the same period last year when 180,920 layoffs were announced.

[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to Conduct a Layoff or Reduction in Force]

"Cuts in the energy sector, which started en masse in mid-2014, were still occurring in the first quarter of 2016," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "The energy industry is no longer bleeding jobs, which is partly why job cut announcements have trended down."

Job Cuts by Sector

Energy employers announced 7,880 job cuts in the first quarter of 2017, which is 84 percent lower than the 48,901 cuts that were announced in the first quarter of last year. Since January 2014, the energy sector has announced 224,265 cuts, with 107,714 occurring in 2016.

Retail leads all sectors in 2017 with 38,464 announced cuts—over 4,000 layoffs were announced last month—but the industry has also announced over 121,000 new jobs so far this year.

"Retail is typically an industry in flux, but we've seen long-established companies close stores and cut workers," Challenger said. As people increasingly shop online, traditional brick-and-mortar companies, from JCPenney to Macy's, have shuttered more stores and are experimenting with using fewer staff members in their remaining stores. For instance:

*Macy's said that it will eliminate more than 10,000 jobs and will move forward with the planned closure of 68 stores by the middle of this year.

*Sears Holdings also recently announced that it was planning to shutter 150 stores this quarter, from both its Kmart and Sears brands.

*Payless ShoeSource, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy April 4 and announced it will close 400 brick-and-mortar stores throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

Telecommunications companies followed the retail industry, with 9,782 job cuts announced so far this year. "Telecommunications providers, like other tech companies, are undergoing restructuring, losing jobs to automation and pivoting to new projects," Challenger said.

Following cuts in retail and telecom, companies in the health care (8,116), energy (7,880) and industrial goods (5,948) sectors rounded out the top five industries experiencing layoffs this year.

Texas has seen the most job cuts so far this year (17,798), followed by Ohio (17,943), California (15,297), New Jersey (9,031) and New York (6,655).

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