Retailers Continue to Hemorrhage Jobs

By Roy Maurer May 11, 2017
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U.S. employers announced fewer layoffs in April than the previous month, according to the latest report from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. The retail sector continues to lead all industries in job cuts this year.

Employers announced plans to cut 36,602 jobs in April, a 15 percent decrease from March and a 43 percent drop from the 64,141 job cuts recorded in April 2016.

Overall, 162,803 layoffs have been announced through the first four months of 2017, down 35 percent from the 249,061 job cuts reported during the same period a year ago. It is the lowest January-April total since 2014, according to the report.

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

"Although restructuring in the retail sector continues to shed jobs, we aren't seeing the wide-scale layoffs in other sectors, like energy or tech," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The retail industry announced 11,669 job cuts in April, the highest total among all industries. The year-to-date total for job cuts in the retail sector is 50,133, a 36 percent increase from the total job cuts for that sector in the first four months of 2016.

Meanwhile, the energy sector, which at this point last year had shed 67,660 jobs, has announced 8,725 to date, an 87 percent decrease. Just 459 energy-sector job cuts were announced in April.

Telecommunications firms have announced 10,269 layoffs through April this year, a 70 percent increase from the 6,023 cuts through this point last year.

"The FCC [Federal Communications Commission] is expected to lift a ban on merger talks in the telecom industry, which will likely result in companies paring down to make themselves more attractive in these deals," Challenger said. "We could see even more cuts in the coming months from this sector."

Overall, the economy seems to be in a holding pattern, he said. "Companies may be waiting for the outcome of President Trump's tax reform [proposal] before making any major decisions."

In addition to cuts in retail, energy and telecom, companies in the health care (11,269) and automotive (8,725) industries rounded out the top five sectors experiencing layoffs this year.

California has seen the most job cuts so far this year (21,057), followed by Ohio (18,838), Texas (18,116), Indiana (10,299) and New Jersey (9,861).

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