August Job Cuts Drop to 20-Month Low

Chicago — Sept. 6

Employers announced plans to shed 32,239 workers from their payrolls in August, the fewest number of monthly job cuts by U.S.-based firms since December 2010, when layoffs totaled 32,004, according to the latest job cuts report by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

August job cuts were down 12.5 percent from a July total of 36,855, making it the third consecutive decline in monthly job cuts. Last month was 37 percent lower than August 2011, when employers announced plans to eliminate 51,114 positions from their ranks.

Since Jan. 1, employers have announced 352,185 planned job cuts, nearly unchanged from a year ago and down three percent from the 2011 eight-month total of 363,334.

Fewer job cuts over the last three months have effectively reversed a trend that saw increased downsizing through the first half of 2012. At the midway point of the year, 2012 job cuts were 15 percent higher than at the same point in 2011.

The three-month decline in the pace of downsizing may be further evidence of an improving economy or it may simply be a summer lull in job-cut activity. The slowdown in activity many businesses experience during the summer months also appears to impact job cuts. Over the previous 10 years, the monthly average for June, July and August was consistently lower than the monthly average for the entire year, with the exception of 2005 and 2011.

August job cuts were led by the telecommunications sector, where employers announced 4,584 job cuts. Most of these cuts (4,000 out of the total) were the anticipated cuts resulting from Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility.

Year-to-date, telecom firms have announced 18,987 job cuts, which is up 146 percent from 7,715 at this point last year.

For the year, computer firms rank as the top job cutters, having announced 37,670 job cuts since Jan. 1, including 2,664 in July.

The year-to-date total for this sector is 233 percent higher than the 11,297 job cuts announced by these employers through eight months of 2011.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.