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posted on 07 May 2015

Job Cuts Surge to 3-Year High in April 2015

from Challenger Gray and Christmas

Falling oil prices contributed to a 68 percent surge in job cuts last month, as US-based employers announced workforce reductions totaling 61,582 in April, up from 36,594 in March.

The April total was 53 percent higher than the same month a year ago, when 40,298 planned job cuts were recorded. It represents the highest monthly total since May 2012 (61,887) and the highest April total since 2009 (132,590).

Year to date, employers have announced 201,796 planned job cuts, which marks a 25 percent increase from the 161,639 layoffs tracked in the first four months of 2014. This is the largest four-month total since 2010.

Driving the increased pace of job cutting in April and for the year is the dramatic decline in oil prices, which is forcing producers and suppliers to cut production. Of the 61,582 job cut announced last month, 20,675 or 34 percent were directly attributed to oil prices.

For the year, oil prices were blamed for 68,285 job cuts, or about 34 percent of the 201,796 planned layoffs announced between January 1 and April 30. Said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas:

Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Halliburton have all announced multiple rounds of job cuts in recent months, including April. The largest job cut of the month came from Schlumberger, which announced that it will shed 11,000 workers, in addition to the 9,000 laid off in January.

The jobs that are most vulnerable are those in the field - engineers, oil rig operators, drill operators, refinery operators, etc. Managers and executives in the corporate offices are more secure, but the drop in oil prices is leading to increased merger activity, which could put more executives at risk of job loss.

Most of the oil-related layoffs have occurred in the energy sector, which is the top job-cutting industry to date, with 57,556 planned cuts. That is more than double the second-ranked retail sector, which has announced 26,096 job cuts this year.

The pace of retail sector job cuts is slightly higher than a year ago, when these employers announced 25,224 job cuts through the first four months. Challenger added:

Low oil prices should be helping retailers. However, the extra money in Americans' wallets do not appear to be making it into the nation's cash registers. Retail sales have been lackluster, at best. Furthermore, consumer products giant Procter & Gamble announced in April that it would reduce its headcount by as many as 6,000 workers over the next two years, following a poor earnings report.

We could be witnessing the after-effect of the severe and protracted recession. Much like the generation that lived through the Great Depression, those who scraped by during the recession are being extra careful with their money. Another factor is that not everyone's boat is rising with the tide. Many Americans are still struggling to find work and those that do are not earning as much they once did.


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